Learning to talk, like learning to walk, is never completely smooth and does not happen straight away. Young children often stop, pause, start again and stumble over words when they are learning to talk. Between the ages of two and five years, it is normal for a child to repeat words and phrases, and hesitate with “um”s and “er”s, when he is sorting out what to say next.
Many find it easier to talk fluently as they get older. Others continue to find talking difficult and often get stuck.
What is stammering?
You may notice your child
- is putting extra effort into saying his / her words
- has tense and jerky speech
- cannot seem to get started, no sound comes out for several seconds (“… I got a teddy”)
- is stretching sounds in a word (“I want a ssstory”)
- is repeating parts of words several times (“mu-mu-mu-mu-mummy”)
- stops what he /she is saying half way through his sentence.
These examples vary from child to child – you may hear some or all of these when your child talks.
It is not known exactly why a child stammers; it is likely that a combination of factors is involved. There is no evidence that parents cause stammering. It is about four times more common in boys than in girls. Stammering often runs in families and occurs worldwide in all cultures and social groups.
How is fluency affected?
Whatever the age of your child, there are things he / she is able to do easily and some things which he / she finds difficult. Your child’s fluency may change according to;
- the situation (eg: if it is noisy or quiet, rushed or relaxed, at home or in the nursery)
- whether your child is talking to friends, parents or strangers
- what he /she wants to say (eg: if it is complicated or easy, if the words are new or familiar)
- how he / she is feeling (unwell, tired, anxious, excited or confident).
Stammering may come and go; you may notice his / her speech is fluent for several days, weeks or months at a time, then he /she stumbles and speaking becomes difficult again.