Your toddler is at an age when words and phrases start popping up left and right. When did he become such a little talker?
Because speech and language are developing so rapidly in toddlerhood, it can be tough to tell what speech patterns are typical and what might signal a speech and language disorder. Stuttering is one disorder that is common in toddlerhood, but intervention might be necessary when it’s frequent and consistent in your toddler’s speech.
What is Stuttering?
Stuttering is a speech disorder that happens when your toddler stumbles over sounds, syllables, or words. In other words, the typical speech pattern gets disrupted. It might seem like he’s hung up on a part of a word, phrase, or sentence. For example, he might try to say “car,” which instead comes out like, “c-c-c-c-ar.”
Toddlers are still learning to speak and growing their vocabularies, so it’s typical for them to struggle to pronounce a word or even get that word from their brains out of their mouths. If you notice that your toddler is doing this once in a while, like when he’s overly excited to tell you something, it’s usually not a cause for concern.
Stuttering is different and, at this age, relatively common. It can start as early as age 2, but it may not appear until school age. True stuttering will be frequent in his speech, and you might notice him getting frustrated when he tries to say something. He might have several pauses in his sentences, be unable to say anything when he tries, or even seem scared to talk.
Diagnosing and Treating Stuttering
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), a consistent stuttering pattern lasting at least three to six months may indicate atypical speech that requires further evaluation. A family history of stuttering might also warrant a check.
If you have concerns about your child’s speech, you can first talk to his pediatrician. They’ll do a brief evaluation of your child’s speech and take your concerns into consideration to decide whether a referral to a speech-language pathologist (SLP) might be necessary. The SLP will usually be the one to determine whether your toddler’s speech patterns are typical or leaning more toward stuttering.
Early intervention can sometimes help toddlers overcome challenges associated with stuttering before they reach school age. Speech therapy is a common treatment method that can help both you and your toddler learn some strategies to improve his speech. The SLP will probably give you some tips to work on with your toddler at home, like being patient while he speaks and being careful not to interrupt him as he tries to get his words out.
Other therapies, like occupational therapy, might also be on your toddler’s treatment plan depending on how severe his stuttering is and what might be causing it. For example, toddlers who seem to have a lot of anxiety related to talking may benefit from techniques used in occupational or cognitive-behavioral therapy, like deep breathing exercises, to reduce and work through symptoms.
As your toddler grows and develops more language skills with the help of his SLP, he can eventually overcome stuttering. Many of the Speech and Language activities we offer in the BabySparks development program are perfect for working on at home to aid speech progression!