Stuttering: Importance of Early Intervention

It is hard to imagine not being able to say your own name or not being able to say hello when answering the telephone. This is what many people who stutter experience on a daily basis. That’s why when it comes to stuttering in kids, early intervention is important.

Stuttering is a complex speech disorder characterized by the interruption of the normal flow of speech. It often is noticed in the form of whole word repetitions (ex: I I), part word repetitions (ex: pu pu put it away), phrase repetitions (ex: I want, I want), and/or blocking with no sound coming out.

Some children who stutter go through periods of normal dysfluencies/stuttering. Reportedly about 20 percent of children experience disruptions in talking and many will outgrow stuttering on their own. However, the risk of experiencing a lifetime of stuttering is not worth the “wait and see approach” so often heard by the public.

How do we know which children are at risk for stuttering? This is important to understand to determine when to have your child evaluated. If your child has been stuttering for more than three months, showing signs of struggle or displaying awareness, then an evaluation should be conducted by a speech/language pathologist experienced in stuttering. A familial history of stuttering is a warning sign as well. Boys are four times more likely to stutter than girls. If your child starts stuttering past age three, this is a red flag as well.

Many people will tell a child to slow down or take a breath before speaking. In fact this will only increase awareness and could make the stuttering worse. If your child is stuttering, it is best to let them finish their sentences, establish eye contact and decrease direct questions.

The Stuttering Foundation of America provides important facts about stuttering. The best time to intervene is before age six. One very successful method to treat stuttering is the Lidcombe Program for Early Stuttering Intervention. This program teaches the parents how to help their child at home to correct “bumpy” speech in the hopes of eliminating stuttering. After age six, strategies can be taught to improve fluency. We don’t know the exact cause of stuttering but we do know ways to help.

By Lori Melnitsky, MA CCC-SLP – Speech pathologist and director of All Island Speech and Stuttering Therapy in Plainview, NY on Long Island. Reach her at or 516-776-0184. For more information, visit

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