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Intervention can be helpful for children who stutter

Child development

Did you know that about five per cent of all children, including three times more boys than girls, stutter at some time in their lives? And that about one per cent of those will have a stutter into adult life?

Stuttering can cause some concern amongst parents, and the cause of stuttering is not clear[1].
There are three types of stutters:
  • Repetitions of a sound (for example, “d-d-d-d-og”), a word (for example, “my-my-my-my”) or a phrase (e.g. “and then- and then- and then”)
  • Prolongation, which is a noticeable extension of a sound (for example, sssssssssnake)
  • Blocking of the airflow when producing a sound (for example, f/unny)
Goodstart Early Learning national manager, speech pathology, Tiffany Noble, on the First Five Years website, said the best course of action for parents dealing with their children’s stutter is to get a referral to a speech pathologist.

She said speech pathologists are specifically trained in many different communication therapy approaches.

She said the Lidcombe Program is a highly successful, well researched early intervention for children who stutter. In the program, parents work closely with the speech pathologist to learn how to best support their child in everyday experiences to ultimately increase the times their child is fluent.

Ms Noble has some tips for parents when dealing with their child’s stutter in everyday interactions:
  • Don’t draw attention to the stutter.  Drawing attention to errors can potentially lower self-esteem and decrease a child’s desire to talk. Do not to tell a child to slow down or start again. Instead, Ms Noble recommends reinforcing that you are listening and are ready for the conversation. For example, “I can see you have something really interesting to tell me. I am listening.”
  • Increase situations in which your child is most fluent. Whilst being nervous does not cause stuttering, feeling nervous or stressed can increase the amount a child may stutter in a particular moment. Notice the situations in which your child doesn’t stutter or stutters less and aim to increase these situations. This will ensure they experience lots of success talking.  For example, during book reading or a puzzle.
  • Model fluent speech. Modelling or repeating what your child has said, in a fluent way, shows your child you have heard what they said, and also provides a fluent example of what they have said. This happens without highlighting the stutter.  For example,
    • Child: “The c-c-c-c-cat ran under the bed!”  
    • Parent: “The cat ran under the bed! I saw him go fast.”
  • Provide opportunities. Give your child the chance to speak without competition and distraction from other children or family members. This demonstrates respect and reduces the likelihood of frustration. Using everyday opportunities is best such as, ensuring turn taking in conversations around the dinner table. For example, “After Ben has told us about his day, it will be your turn, Ethan.” This way, Ethan has a chance to prepare what he would like to say without being asked the direct question of – “how was your day, Ethan?” 
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