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Childhood Stuttering and Fluency Disorders

Happy school-aged girl speaking; fluency disorder

What is a fluency disorder?

A fluency disorder is when the normal flow of speech is disrupted in some way. Stuttering, which affects approximately 1% of the United States population, is the most common fluency disorder.

Stuttering occurs when normal speech is disrupted by involuntary repetitions or prolongations of sounds, syllabus, words or phrases, sound blocks, interjections, or revisions.

Cluttering is another common fluency disorder. It is characterized by rapid or irregular rates of speech as well as irregular syntax and ordering of words. Both of these interfere with overall speech clarity.

While stuttering and cluttering are often confused, they are distinct fluency disorders with different symptoms and treatment methods.

A stutterer chiefly struggles with putting thoughts into words. They have coherent, well-ordered thoughts but have difficulty verbalizing those thoughts.

A clutterer easily puts thoughts into words but has difficulty organizing those words in conventional ways. Whereas stuttering is a speech disorder, cluttering affects writing, typing, and other forms of communication in addition to speech.

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Childhood Disfluency: When Is It Developmentally Appropriate?

Contrary to popular belief, childhood stuttering can be developmentally appropriate. In fact, approximately 5% of children will be disfluent at some point in their development.

Normal developmental stuttering generally occurs between ages 2–6. Why? Because children at these ages are learning and developing their language skills very quickly. Repeating or prolonging sounds and syllabus, or occasionally stumbling over their words, is often a perfectly natural step in learning how to speak.

Stuttering can happen when a child:

  1. Gets excited
  2. Is rushed when trying to speak
  3. Tries to talk quickly
  4. Becomes very tired

Understandably, many parents grow concerned if their child starts to stutter. If your child’s stuttering or other disfluencies persist for longer than 6 months, or if your child exhibits physical symptoms such as eye blinking, facial tension, or looking away, you may wish to schedule a speech and language evaluation.

Treatment for Fluency Disorders

During a comprehensive fluency evaluation, a speech-language pathologist applies standardized assessments and conducts an interview with parents/guardians. The aim is to determine the frequency, duration, and social and emotional impacts of your child’s disfluencies.

Once your child’s therapist completes the evaluation and reviews the report with you, they will recommend whether to schedule regular sessions for your child. These services can be provided either in-person or remotely via teletherapy.

Effective Teletherapy for Pediatric Speech and Occupational Therapies; teletherapy for fluency disorders

What Are the Benefits of Teletherapy for Fluency Disorder Treatment?

Teletherapy offers a number of benefits for both you and your child. Some notable perks of virtual sessions include:

  1. Convenience: In between remote working and home schooling, people these days are busy. Teletherapy lets you stay at home and schedule sessions at times that work for your family.
  2. Kids love technology: Many children enjoy, and become motivated by, online video interactions. While there are different opinions regarding how much exposure children as a whole should have to technology, the right tech correctly applied can be an invaluable tool in treating fluency disorders.
  3. Comfort: Children with fluency disorders can sometimes feel more comfortable, more at ease, during virtual sessions than during face-to-face interactions.
  4. Expanded access to providers: One of the greatest benefits of teletherapy, and telehealth services generally, is the accessibility it provides. We know how difficult it can be to find a specialized fluency therapist to work with your child. That’s why our extensive network of highly specialized and experienced therapists is available via teletherapy whenever and wherever your child needs.
  5. Social distancing: With COVID-19 still very much among us, teletherapy has become a popular and highly successful service delivery model. With built-in social distancing, everyone is kept safe.

Much research has shown teletherapy to be just as effective as in-person therapy. In fact, many families we work with have said they prefer teletherapy to in-person sessions. Fluency therapy translates very well to remote online formats and feels very close to in-person sessions for most patients.

Our therapists employ innovative digital treatment methods and materials. Our standardized digital assessments help us determine each child’s unique needs and craft measurable and achievable goals just for them.

For more on our teletherapy services, click here.

Childhood Stuttering and Fluency Disorders 1 Childhood Stuttering and Fluency Disorders

Tips for Speaking With a Child Who Stutters

If you have difficulty communicating with your child who stutters, try the following:

  1. Speak slowly and calmly. Be patient and use lots of pauses.
  2. Instead of asking them lots of questions, let the child speak freely about topics of their choice. Comment on those topics that your child wants to talk about.
  3. Foster a relaxed, casual atmosphere. Do as much as possible to put your child at ease.
  4. Limit interruptions. Give your child your full attention.
  5. Don’t be afraid to talk about stuttering. If your child brings it up, be open and prepared to discuss it.

If you become concerned about your child’s stuttering, do not hesitate to reach out to us. We are here to help.

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