Stuttering is a communication disorder that affects the flow (or fluency) of speech.  The American Speech-Language and Hearing Association (ASHA) defines a fluency disorder as an interruption in the flow of speaking characterized by atypical rate, rhythm, and repetitions in sounds, syllables, words, and phrases. This may be accompanied by excessive tension, struggle behavior, and secondary mannerisms. Children who stutter may repeat whole words or parts of words.  They may additionally get “stuck” on sounds by either blocking the sound and/or prolonging sounds in a word. Dysfluencies tend to increase when the child is nervous or put on the spot. It is somewhat typical for all children to go through periods of dysfluency especially between the ages of 2-5.  The severity of dysfluency and need for speech therapy depends on the type of dysfluencies present, frequency, and whether or not the child appears affected by it.

    The following are examples of typical vs atypical types of dysfluencies:


    -relaxed repeating of a word or syllable one or two times in a row

    -using filler words/interjections such as “um” and “like”

    -repeating a phrase

    -revisions; starting a sentence then starting it over to say something different

    Atypical Dysfluencies

    -repeating sounds in a word (e.g.  p-p-p-p-pizza)

    -prolonging a sound (e.g.  ssssssssummer time)

    -silent pauses/blocking speech sounds; a child might look like they are trying to say a word but the sound isn’t coming out.  This is because the airflow is blocked.

    -tense repeating of syllables or part of a word multiple times in a row (e.g. wa wa wa water)

    -child seems like he/she is running out of air when talking

    -eye blinking

    -facial grimaces

    -tense lips

    -avoiding speaking


    Please read these documents for more information about stuttering or tips on how to help a child who stutters:

    7 Tips for Parents of Children Who Stutter

    General Tips for Parents of Child Who Stutters

    Stuttering Foundation Brochure

    The Child Who Stutters- The Parents Guide


    Websites for more information

    The Stuttering Foundation- http://www.stutteringhelp.org/

    The National Stuttering Association- http://www.westutter.org/