About 5% of children stutter at some point, with the problem being four times as common in boys. Only about 1% have the problem long term. Stuttering is also sometimes referred to as stammering.
When a parent becomes concerned about unusual speech patterns, they should try to gauge how often the child is struggling with stuttering. If the child is presenting problems 10% or more of the time, it’s then appropiate to ask for a referral to a speech-language pathologist to assess if the child could benefit from therapy. Bringing your concern up with a child’s pediatrician is the best route to getting a referral to a speech-language pathologist. Many insurances will cover speech therapy for children struggling with stuttering if the proper channels are used.
It’s important to remember that although you are worried, your child may also feel worried and stressed when they want to try to form words properly and they come out “wrong”. Staying calm and reassuring the child are important so they don’t feel ashamed or like they are disappointing you. Giving them time to complete their sentences even if it takes longer is more helpful than finishing their sentences for them. They may find it encouraging to know many successful and famous people have struggled with stuttering: Tiger Woods, Bruce Willis, Shaq O’Neal, B.B. King, and Winston Churchill. Many of the local libraries in Hampton Roads also have books and videos geared towards children and parents about stuttering.
Hampton Roads resources for stuttering:
- Referral list for Virginia
- Chesapeake Library: “If Your Child Stutters: A Guide for Parents” by Barry Guitar; “Do You Stutter: A Guide for Teens” by Jane H. Fraser; Stuttering For Kids by Kids DVD, “Therapy in Action: Help for the School-age Child who Stutters” by Jane Fraser DVD; more
- Norfolk Library: “More Friends for Jackson: A Story about Stuttering” by Nina Reardon-Reeves, “Stuttering and Your Child: Questions and Answers” by Barry Guitar; “Ben Has Something to Say: A Story about Stuttering” by Laurie Lears; more
- Virginia Beach Library: “Do You Stutter: A Guide for Teens”; “Coping with Stuttering” by Melanie Apel; “Sometimes I Just Stutter” by Eelco de Geus; more
- Portsmouth Library: “If Your Child Stutters: A Guide for Parents”; “Do You Stutter: A Guide For Teens”; “Let’s Talk About Stuttering” by Susan Kent; more
More general resources on stuttering in children:
- If You Think Your Child Stutters by The Stuttering Foundation
- Stuttering (KidsHealth)
- Just For Kids Stuttering Help