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Dr. Fred Piaser

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STUTTERING   Stuttering, also known as disfluency, is a disturbance in the rhythm or flow of speech. It occurs between the ages of 2 and 5, when your child is learning to master language. Although some studies suggest that some children inherit a predisposition toward stuttering, the cause is probably multifactorial. The cause is probably in part normal nonfluency coupled with psychological stress and learned behavior. Almost all children, at one time or another, are nonfluent in speech. It is a normal part of learning speech. It is important for you to differentiate between normal nonfluency and stuttering. Normal nonfluency occurs in the child less then six years old. Nonfluencies occur on 3% or less of words. There are usually no more then one or two repetitions of a single sound, word or phrase. Nonfluencies may also include hesitancies and the use of fillers such as "uh." The child is usually unaware of the problem.

In stuttering, normal nonfluency may be coupled with psychological stress and learned behavior, exaggerating the symptoms. The child who stutters usually repeats sounds more than two times per repetition in more than 3% of speech. He is aware of the stuttering and it may embarrass him. There may be signs of tension in trying to get the words out. For example, a rise in pitch of his voice or facial tension during repetition may be a clue.

If your child has a mild stutter, there are things you can do to help. Try to set an example of slow and relaxed speech for your child. Have a patient, accepting attitude toward the stutter. Do not become upset or anxious about it. Do not correct, criticize, nor tell your child to slow down. Maintain eye contact and respond to what your child is saying, not to the stutter. Give your child nonverbal reassurance, such as a head nod, to the content of what your child is saying.

If he stutters on more than 10% of his speech, he may have a severe stutter. He may have much tension in trying to get the words out. He would benefit from a speech therapist. Call my office if you have additional questions or would like the name of a therapist. You can also contact the Stuttering Foundation of America for additional information. Their toll-free number is 1-800-992-9392.

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