Childhood-onset fluency disorder, otherwise known as stuttering, is common in young children as they are developing. Developmental stuttering is part of a child’s development, but this becomes worrying when the stuttering persists and is inappropriate for a child’s age. This may result in a child having difficulties articulating or conveying what they want to say. Over time, such dysfluencies can lead to negative consequences on communication, academics, and social functioning.
Is My Child Stuttering?
The main warning sign that a child is stuttering is if there is a disturbance in the normal fluency and patterning of speech, persisting for over 6 months. This is often inappropriate for their developmental age and language skills especially if it has occurred over a significant period of time. It is also observed that the child is anxious about speaking or has difficulties with communication, social participation, and academic performance.
Symptoms of stuttering include:
- Sound and syllable repetitions
- Prolonging the sound of consonants as well as vowels
- Audible or silent blocking, such as pauses in speech
- Substitution of certain words to avoid them
- Words pronounced with physical tension
Stuttering may also be accompanied by certain motor movements, such as the eye blinking, tics, head jerking, fist clenching, and tremors of the lips and jaw.
Stuttering can also be a symptom of other disorders, such as Tourette’s syndrome. It can also be caused by other speech-motor or sensory deficits or neurological conditions (e.g., trauma or stroke).
What Causes Stuttering?
Childhood-onset fluency disorder typically within the ages ranging from 2 to 7 years old.
Risk factors include children who have relatives who stutter, have high expectations for themselves, experience stress within the family or experience symptoms of stuttering for the past 6 months post onset. All these factors can increase the risk of stuttering.
The Importance Of Early Diagnosis
Early diagnosis and treatment will minimize difficulties developing in other areas of functioning and well-being. Treatment will help your child learn ways of overcoming the dysfluency, such as avoiding certain words they find difficulty with, increase confidence when speaking in public, and the ability to express oneself. If left untreated, stuttering could lead to communication difficulties, bullying or withdrawal from social situations, and even anxiety/depression in adulthood.
Speech therapy aims to reduce the disfluency in speech by engaging shaping strategies through direct and indirect methods. Direct methods aim to teach the child to adjust the rate of speech by providing feedback on speech in a non-judgmental manner. Indirect methods aim to facilitate the child to speak by creating an environment where they feel accepted and comfortable.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
CBT targets and challenges maladaptive thoughts and beliefs held by individual in times of distress and replacing these negative thoughts with helpful coping techniques. CBT also includes behavioural experiments to help children overcome avoidance associated with stuttering.
Difficulties with social functioning can also lead to emotional and social difficulties in children, CBT can help to equip the child with the appropriate skills, such as relaxation and problem-solving strategies, to overcome and manage these problems.
In this way, CBT helps your child deal and cope with stressful situations, thus reducing the likelihood of stuttering.
If you suspect your child has a stutter, reach out to the experienced child therapists
(child psychologists and child speech therapists) at Annabelle Kids
located in Singapore for assessment and management of speech difficulties.