Guidelines for parents

Stuttering or dysphemia is a speech disorder (not a language disorder) characterized by interruptions in the fluency of speech, blockages or spasms, which are usually accompanied by muscle tension in the face and neck, fear and stress.

Stuttering also exists in young children. Children who begin to stutter around age 4 are more likely to have persistent stuttering than those who begin to stutter younger.

Early treatment of stuttering is very important, as it is more likely to be eliminated when the child is young (before entering primary school). There are two main forms of treatment for stuttering:

  • Indirect treatment is when the speech therapist helps the child’s parents to modify their own communication styles.
  • Direct treatment involves the speech therapist working with the children themselves, either individually or in small groups. Also, direct treatment may involve helping the child differentiate between fluent speech and “stumbling” speech (stuttering).

After 7 years of age, stuttering is unlikely to go away completely. Still, after age 7, treatment can be very effective in helping a child manage his stuttering effectively, helping him develop the skills necessary to handle difficult situations.

Parents in the meantime can:

  • Reduce the stress on communication. There are different techniques to take the pressure off of a child in a conversational situation. Rephrasing the questions in the form of comments (using “You played on the playground at school today. It must have been fun!” Rather than “What did you do at school today?”) Is a more effective way.
  • Talk about what is happening. When children are aware of their stuttering, it is best to be open and talk about it in a positive way. Let them know that it’s okay to “stutter.” If a child does not seem to be aware of the problem, it is not necessary to point it out until you consult a speech therapist.
  • Be patient. Give the children time to finish saying what they are saying. Don’t rush or interrupt them. Don’t ask them to “slow down” or “think about what they want to say.” Phrases like that usually don’t help children who stutter.
  • Model good speaking habits. While it is generally not helpful to tell a child how to speak, parents can model good speaking habits that help with stuttering, such as speaking more slowly, pausing more between sentences, and speaking in a relaxed manner.
  • Seek the help of a professional. There are many ways to find a speech therapist. Your child’s pediatrician can make a recommendation.


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