Baby Hints & Tips

Expert Advice: Stuttering in Children

Stuttering in childrenStuttering in children is a disorder that brings both worry and dread to parents. In this expert article, speech therapist Clare Francis lays out all you need to know about understanding, identifying and assisting your child with stuttering.

Stuttering is a speech disorder in which the smooth rhythm and flow of speech is disrupted by sounds or words being repeated, stretched out or becoming stuck. It affects, children, adolescents and adults but usually begins in early childhood, often between two and three years of age.


Stuttering can be classed as mild, moderate or severe. It may begin very suddenly or it may start gradually- over days, weeks or even months. It is a very variable condition that will often change in type and frequency over time. Young children often appear to stutter some days and not others.

Stuttering may present as sounds, syllables, words or even phrases being repeated (e.g. m-m-m-monkey, ba-ba-basketball, Can I, Can I, Can I have…) or as sounds and words being stretched out (e.g. It’s mmmmy turn).
Sometimes, words become stuck and it looks like a person is trying to say something, but no sound is coming out.


To date, there is no known cause for stuttering; however there is strong evidence that genetics is involved, as it does tend to run in families. Stuttering is not caused by a traumatic event or experience, anxiety or stress and is not the result of anything parents did or did not do.


Children who stutter are often teased and can show signs of effort or struggle when they speak. They can feel embarrassed and may develop anxiety in social situations, which can make their stuttering worse. As a result, they often try to avoid speaking situations, which can limit educational opportunities.

Some people also develop secondary behaviours such as eye blinking, grunting, grimacing or other body movements that accompany stuttering.

Seeking professional help

If your child begins to stutter I recommend that you organise for them to be assessed by a speech pathologist. In some cases the speech pathologist will recommend a “watchful waiting” period before commencing treatment, as some children do experience natural recovery. At this stage however, it is not possible to predict which children will recover without treatment.

The preschool years are the best time to begin treatment using the Lidcombe Program of Early Stuttering Intervention. There are also effective treatments available for older children and adults who stutter.


As a mum I believe that if you have concerns on any health related issue with your children it is always best to get a second, expert opinion. If you think stuttering could be a problem for your little one please go with your instinct and follow the paths to early intervention. Depending on your state and location you can access public health speech services through a referral by your GP, as well as via private practice.

About the author: Clare Francis is a paediatric speech pathologist from Sydney and “more importantly” a mum of two wonderful (and crazy) kids! She graduated from University of Sydney and worked in both the disability and community health sectors. Wanting to have a better family and work balance Clare opened her own private practice and also blogs at Modern Speechie. Clare is passionate about sharing information and ideas about speech and language development with the aim to help children be the best communicators they can be! You can also follow The Modern Speechie on Facebook.

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