According to the National Stuttering Association, about 5 percent of children go through a phase where they stutter. Stuttering is a very natural phenomena that happens with kids. A child who stutters will either prolong a word, or repeat a syllable or a sound. This often poses as a hindrance in the child’s communication with others. However, it is important to note that stuttering is different form kids repeating entire words. Repeating words is part of learning to talk.
This International Stuttering Awareness Day, Health Shots got in touch with Sweta Uttakallika, speech therapist, who tells us why kids start stuttering and how can we help them deal with this.
Why do kids start stuttering?
The exact reason why stuttering occurs is not yet known. Uttakallika says that it is developmental in nature. “The developmental rate of the mind is faster than the body there by leading to conflict. A child wants to express so much but body is not yet ready to take the pressure. This, for some time, occurs in all the children. Only when it does not disappear, it becomes a problem. There are research suggesting genetic causes as well,” she says.
While no one knows why it happens, there might be some reasons which contribute to the occurrence of stuttering in children. Uttakallika explains that pressure to perform might be one of them. “Pressure for performance, peer pressure, and bullying can be some of the reasons. If people are aware about the possible frailty of human mind and show empathetic approach in dealing with individuals who are probable different than others, these things may be avoided,” she says.
Other than this, a family history of stuttering, speech and language disorders that the child is going through can also pose as causes for stuttering to start. Also, there might be neurogenic causes which might follow an unfortunate incident of stroke, head trauma, or a brain injury. Here the brain is not able to coordinate with the areas that are required for a child to talk, and hence, they may start to stutter.
At what age do children stutter?
While kids are not fluent in talking, when they are three to four years old, they might stutter. But when this does not go away is when you need to be concerned, explains Uttakallika. “There is no specific age for stuttering to occur. There are adults without a history of stuttering in childhood, may start to stutter. However, a term called ‘normal non fluency’, is considered normal in the ages between 3-4 years. When this does not disappear, it is known to be stuttering or the person is referred to as stutterer,” she says.
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders says stuttering happens most probably between the ages of 2 and 6. Children are developing their language skills during this time. Their research adds that the number of boys who stutter is three to four times more than girls.
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Can stuttering go away with time on its own?
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, in its research, claims that 75 per cent of the kids who start to stutter at younger ages, are able to overcome this as they grow older. The rest 25 per cent, however, have a lifelong stuttering challenge.
Uttakallika explains, “There is a chance that the stuttering goes away temporarily by itself. If a trigger or pressure situation arises, it has great chance to re occur. If you are talking about ‘normal non fluency’ which occurs as a part of normal development, it will go away in majority of the individuals without parents or other making the child be aware of the problem.”
How to deal with stuttering in children
While stuttering is natural, there are ways to help children overcome this. Uttakallika lists them for us.
- Talk slowly: Talking slowly has been one of the basic steps in establishing fluent speech. Talking slowly gives time for the body to pace itself with the mind.
- Tapping per word: Telling a word for every finger tap or hand tap will help maintain the pace during speaking.
- Relaxation techniques: Relaxation using deep breathing will help ease the pressure out and help you be calm in situations which are stressing.