Childhood onset of stuttering versus typical dysfluencies

Many young children may display “typical dysfluencies” in their speech as their language is emerging as they are learning many new words and sounds. For approximately 75 percent of preschool-age children who have a stutter, the stutter will go away without treatment. However, if parents notice their child’s stutter lasts longer than six months, if the stutter began after the age of 3½ years old, or there is a family history of stuttering it is highly recommended to see a speech pathologist.

Typical dysfluencies occur between the ages of 2 ½ and 5. They can include:

  • Multisyllabic whole word repetitions (e.g.  “Gimmie gimmie the car”)
  • Interjections (e.g. “I um, want to go home”)
  • Phrase repetitions (e.g. “I want I want I want milk”)
  • Phrase revisions or abandoned utterances (“I want.. Can I have a lolly?”)

Signs of stuttering:
Some examples of the dysfluencies seen in Childhood Onset Stuttering include:

  • Monosyllabic whole word repetitions (e.g. “I-I-I-I- want a drink”)
  • Sound / syllable repetitions (e.g. “Go-go-go away”)
  • Prolongation of sounds (e.g. “IIIIIIIIIIIIII want a dog”)
  • Blocks (when no sound comes out) (pause) “Come here.”

 These dysfluencies may be accompanied by:

  • Signs of physical tension or struggle, such as eye blinks, facial grimaces, head or body movements, and/or distracting sounds.
  • Negative reactions towards talking.
  • Avoidance of certain sounds, words, or situations.

Early intervention is important as research has found that outcomes are much better if treatment is completed by the time a child starts school. Early intervention can help to reduce the chances that your child will continue to stutter as well as improve their quality of life. When children are still stuttering later in childhood, they can experience negative reactions from peers, teachers or uninformed adults. When this happens, the child might learn to use behaviours to escape the stuttering such as: evading speaking situations in many environments or replacing words they want to use in conversation. If left untreated, adults who stutter may end up avoiding jobs or personal commitments that have speaking demands.

A speech pathologist can recommend if therapy is required, and if so, assist you in finding the intervention approach that would be best suited for your child and family. If you require any further information or would like to book a free consultation please contact Eat Speak Learn on 02 6156 2804.


Onslow (2018). Stuttering and it’s treatment Eleven lectures. Retrieved from https://www.uts.edu.au/sites/default/files/2018-10/Stuttering%20and%20its%20Treatment%20-%20Eleven%20Lectures%20April%202018_0.pdf

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