How to Help a Child Who Stutters

| by The Pediatric Insider

The Pediatric Insider

© 2010 Roy Benaroch, MD

Lara wanted to know about stuttering: “My son is almost two and a half and started stuttering a few months ago. I thought it was getting better, but it seems lately that he is doing it a lot still. I have read that most kids go through this stage and grow out of it at some point. I am wondering at what point should I have him checked out in order to correct it early on and how long I should wait to see if he grows out of it.”

Stuttering is an involuntary repetition of sounds, usually at the start of a sentence. Almost all children have an occasional stutter, especially when they’re young and their language skills are growing quickly. Although the exact cause of stuttering isn’t known, It seems like stuttering occurs when the brain can thinks thoughts faster than the mouth can say them.

Most kids who stutter will stop on their own, without any sort of formal speech therapy.  Look out for some red flags:

  • Stuttering most commonly starts between age 2 to 3. If stuttering starts after age 3 1/2, it is more likely to continue.
  • Children with a parent or sibling who has chronic stuttering are more likely to continue to stutter.
  • Most stuttering will stop within 6-12 months after it begins. If your child has been stuttering longer than this, more help might be needed.
  • Children who have other speech problems– like substituting letter sounds, or dropping parts of words– are at more risk for long-term stuttering.


For parents of toddlers who stutter, the best way to help is to remain calm, reassuring, and unconcerned. Speak slower, and don’t rush. Do not complete your child’s sentences or urge him to slow down, but rather just show with body language that you are patient and will wait for her to finish. Do not interrupt. Don’t try tricks like getting him to sing or anything like that. Ask fewer questions, and keep them simple. Watch how you and your family communicate, and set a good example by listening patiently to one another and paying attention when someone else speaks.

Stuttering is common and usually disappears as children pass the toddler years. If your child has some “red flags” or your family can’t relax and be patient when your child talks, speak with your child’s doctor about a referral to a speech therapist.

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