Toddler Stuttering? Don’t Worry, It’s Normal

Recently my two-and-a-half year-old began to stutter. So I did what any concerned modern mom would do: panicked and Googled “stuttering in toddlers.”

Turns out it’s not uncommon for kids to have some “language dysfluency” as they are learning to speak. According to WebMD, 20% of children will experience some amount of stuttering before the age of five. Experts aren’t sure what causes a child to stutter. They do know it seems to run in families—if you stutter, your child might, too—and it is much more common in males.

There’s also a good chance a child like my daughter will  stop stuttering without any intervention or therapy. Working in her favor: It appeared before the age of three-and-a-half. Kids who start stuttering after this age are more likely to continue on, according to research shared by the Stuttering Foundation. And as a female, my daughter is three to  four times more likely than her male playmates to outgrow it.

Ideally my daughter’s stutter will be gone within the next six months, or a year at the latest. If she’s still stuttering at that point, the risk of it remaining longer becomes greater, the Stuttering Foundation indicates. By then we should seek treatment. About one in 20 kids will continue to stutter for more than six months, says WebMD. If your child begins to stutter, don’t hesitate to bring it up with your pediatrician at any point. S/he may refer you to a speech-language pathologist who can evaluate your child.

In the meantime, I’m learning ways to best communicate with my little girl. Speaking more slowly and clearly, giving her my full attention when she’s talking, and taking turns speaking are all ways recommended by the Stuttering Foundation. It is tricky to resist the urge to say “Slow down” or “Take a deep breath.” I have to remind myself that, while well-intentioned, these words aren’t helpful. They may make her feel self-conscious. It’s better to let her practice speaking in a relaxed and loving environment. Although slowing down our active lifestyle, another recommendation, remains easier said than done.

Do you notice your child stuttering when s/he speaks? Have you been concerned enough to explore treatments?