When a child stutters, parents are often told to relax, that the stuttering is a phase that will soon be outgrown, and that nothing needs to be done. This advice can be unfortunate. Children with true stuttering tend to repeat syllables four or more times (a-a-a-a-as opposed to once or twice for normal disfluency). They mmmmmay also occasionally prolong sounds. Children with stuttering show signs of reacting to their stuttering — blinking the eyes, looking to the side, raising the pitch of the voice. True stuttering is frequent — at least 3% of the child’s speech. While normal disfluency is especially noticeable when the child is tired, anxious, or excited, true stuttering is noticeable most of the time. Children with true stuttering are usually concerned, frustrated, or embarrassed by the difficulty. About 4% of all children will have true stuttering for at least 6 months, most commonly between the ages of 2 and 5. Most of these will recover by late childhood, but about a quarter of them will develop severe, chronic stuttering. Whenever parents suspect that their child has true stuttering, it is important to bring it to their pediatrician’s attention — it is easily treatable, unless you miss the window of time when treatment is so effective.
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