Stuttering is a speech problem that makes it hard for children to speak smoothly.
Children who stutter most often do it at the start of sentences, but stutters can also happen throughout sentences.
Children might also do nonverbal things when they stutter. For example, they might blink their eyes, grimace, make faces or clench their fists.
We don’t really know why stuttering happens.
It might be because there’s an error or delay in the message that a child’s brain sends to the muscles of her mouth when she needs to speak. This error or delay makes it hard for the child to coordinate her mouth muscles when she’s talking, which results in stuttering.
Stuttering runs in families. This suggests that stuttering might involve genes that are passed on to children from one or both parents. It means a child is more likely to stutter if other people in his family stutter or have stuttered. But it doesn’t mean that a child who has a family history of stuttering will definitely stutter.
Stuttering isn’t caused by anxiety or stress. But stuttering can cause stress, particularly for teenagers.
A child can’t catch stuttering from somebody else. And a child who stutters can’t control it.
If your child stutters, he might feel frustrated or embarrassed because of the way other children react to the way he speaks. Your child might even avoid talking, or change what he wants to say.
But stuttering doesn’t actually affect preschoolers’ development. Preschoolers who stutter can have the same social skills as non-stuttering children. They’re not more likely to be shy or withdrawn compared with children their age who don’t stutter.
But if stuttering continues into primary school, it can become a problem. Primary school children who stutter are less likely to be thought of as leaders by their peers. Primary school children and teenagers who stutter might not want to join in with classroom discussions and are also more likely to be bullied compared with children who don’t stutter.
Teenagers who stutter can develop anxiety because of their stuttering. They might feel self-conscious, have lower self-esteem or find some situations challenging – for example, speaking in public or starting an intimate relationship.
If you notice that your child has a stutter, it’s important to seek professional help.