Stuttering is a fluency disorder that is defined as a disruption in the forward flow of speech. It is commonly characterized by repetitions (ex. ba-ba-baseball), sound prolongations (ex. mmmommy), or blocks (i.e. no sound). Disfluencies may also be accompanied by negative thoughts and feelings about stuttering, avoidance of sounds, words or situations and physical tension or struggle behaviors (ex. eye blinking, lip tension, head nodding, etc.). Stuttering is NOT an emotional disorder, but stuttering can certainly have an emotional impact. As children get older, they may develop “tricks” for hiding their stuttering by swapping out words or planning and rehearsing what they are going to say before speaking. Other children may avoid speaking in certain situations altogether. These “tricks” may make it look like the child is stuttering less or has eliminated stuttering altogether, however this fluency comes at a significant cost to their emotional and social wellbeing as well as their ability to thrive in an educational setting. There are many young children who demonstrate disfluencies in their speech as they go through the natural process of developing language, however these disfluencies look and sound different than stuttering. Consult a speech/language pathologist if you are unsure if what you’re seeing is “true stuttering.” If a differential diagnosis is made early on, the family can make use of the critical window of time that therapy is most effective.
HOW CAN TEACHERS HELP?