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When should you be concerned about stuttering?


We all have dysfluencies everyday! Very often people say “um,” “uh,” or “like” when they are trying to explain something to you. Even repeating the beginning of a sentence like, “Can you, Can you get bananas at the store?” while trying to recall information is normal.

When our children start being dysfluent it is hard to know what is normal and what is truly stuttering. When your child is around 3-5 they are going from saying maybe 100 words to thousands. This huge leap in expressive language can kind of cause a little brain confusion when they start to put words together with more complex grammatical patterns. As there brains processes how they are going to produce these words and phrases they can start to stutter. This is called a developmental stutter and should resolve itself in a few months. To help figure it out, first we have to understand the different types of dysfluencies and know which ones are developmental.

Normal Dysfluencies:

  1. Whole Word Repetitions: repeating one word multiple times. Examples: I I I want to go. The the the dog is barking. Can I have apples and and and bananas.
  2. Whole Phrase Repetitions: repeating a phrase multiple times. Examples: I think, I think, I think it is blue. Can I, Can I, Can I go to.
  3. Interjections: Small words/sounds in conversation that are not relevant to the meaning. Examples: Um, uh, like, you know

Dysfluencies that should be monitored:

  1. Initial Sound Repetition: repeating the first sound of a word. Examples: T-t-tom is here. D-d-d-d-don’t do that. P-p-pizza please.
  2. Prolong first sounds: dragging out the first sound of the word. Examples: Mmmmmmmmy name is Doug. Iiiiiiiiiiii llllllllike that.
  3. Blocks: getting stuck on a sound for more than a couple seconds. Examples: P(hold on /p/ with tight lips)izza. T(hold /t/ with a tight tongue)oday.

Another thing that needs to be monitored that is not a dysfluency is other physical behaviors like blinking, hitting their hand on an object to get a word out, and/or facial grimaces. If your child is doing this, get them evaluated right away. Another red flag is if they have been stuttering for more than 6 months.

It can be scary to see your child struggle with dysfluencies. Please reach out to your pediatrician or a speech language pathologist to have your child evaluated if you have concerns.

Nicole Yates
About the author

I have been working in the speech-language field since 2007. I received my undergraduate degree from the University of Florida in 2006, and my masters from University of South Florida in 2009. I have worked in the school system, hospital, independent clinic, and home health settings. I decided to leave the hospital to work for myself, because I was frustrated with the amount of children required for me to see daily. Starting my own company has allowed me time to adequately prepare for each of my patients so that I can serve them and their families in the best way possible. Every child is so different, and I can now give them the time they need. I myself was in speech therapy as a child and know what it feels like not to be understood. It is my passion to help every child reach their fullest potential in the area of communication. There is nothing more fulfilling than hearing a child tell their parents they love them for the first time! I would be grateful to be a part of your child’s journey.