Listening to children talk and tell stories is fun. But sometimes children exhibit stuttering-like characteristics, which may cause concern. Lakes Regional Healthcare Speech Pathologist Kelly Mueting said stuttering is also known as disfluent speech and is defined as the interruption in the natural flow of speech. It can happen with repetitions of words or sounds, prolongations or extending a sound for a long time, or interjections such as “um.”
According to Mueting, five percent of children ages two to five years old display normal stuttering-like characteristics. During this age, a huge language growth occurs and their mouths simply can’t keep up with all of the information they’re learning. For example, a story from a three-year-old can sound like, “I, I, I, um, um, Mom, I went down a, um, slide and, um, and, and it was fun.” During this normal disfluency period, their face is not tense and it’s easy to see they are thinking hard about telling their story. Their normal disfluency is occurring as they are learning how to combine words into sentences.
However, some children continue on with their disfluency. Mueting said stuttering is often observed by tension in the face, when a child is afraid to talk, or when a child’s normal disfluency period lasts longer than one year.
Those with questions are encouraged to talk with their family provider. From there, a referral to a Speech Pathologist can be made.