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Early Intervention to Stop Stuttering

Early Intervention to Stop Stuttering

What do Winston Churchill and James Earl Jones have in common besides a deep voice and a robust stature? They were both stutterers.

Stuttering that lasts for six months or more affects about 5% of children -- and is thought to happen because of a combination of genetics, neurophysiology, developmental problems and family environment. Fortunately, stuttering fades for about 50% of 4- and 5-year-olds. But that doesn’t mean that you should just think of it as a passing phase.

Research shows that early intervention, as young as age three, is the best route -- even if your child may eventually overcome the disability. That’s because helping reprogram the brain’s speech patterns as soon as possible can prevent stuttering from becoming an emotional and social handicap -- or a permanent condition. The frustration that young kids feel when they can’t express themselves is great enough without any impediments; add stuttering and it can amplify those feelings. Furthermore, if a child stutters at age 5 there’s a 50-50 chance it will persist into adulthood.

So if your child stutters, don’t worry, but do talk with a speech therapist. And consider adopting some of the most effective therapeutic techniques: Reduce competing sounds from TV, music and other people; speak more slowly when talking with your child; allow for pauses between talking and taking turns talking; let your child finish a thought no matter how long it takes; and teach your child relaxed breathing techniques.

Medically reviewed in March 2020.

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