Stuttering is a speech problem that predominantly affects children. It is characterised by repeated, prolonged or blocked sounds, syllables, words or phrases.
If you or a loved one is starting to stutter, you may need to consult a speech pathologist. To get you started, we’ve created this guide on the defining traits of stuttering, how to support someone who stutters – and when to refer to a professional.
We all have moments where we stumble over our words. But if it’s happening frequently, it might be stuttering.
Here are the key characteristics of stuttering:
Repeating sounds, syllables, words and phrases
Inability to produce target and non-target sounds
Prolonging sounds, syllables, words and phrases
Combinations of the above
The following can also be present:
Pauses or hesitations
Changes in breathing patterns
Inserting other sounds, words or phrases
Pitch and volume changes
Secondary symptoms associated with stuttering include:
Inappropriate eye contact
Increased body movement and tension
Many children produce some minor dysfluency as their speech and language develops, especially between ages 2-5. For most children, this is a normal stage of development usually demonstrated by simple repetitions of sounds at the beginning of words.
Seek help from a speech pathologist if:
Your child is frustrated or embarrassed by their stuttering
Your child is elongating sounds
Your child is blocking (withholding air) when attempting sounds and words
There are periods of significant stuttering
Secondary behaviours develop, such as eye closing or face twitching, during stuttering
The stuttering continues for 6-8 weeks