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What is Stuttering?

Stuttering is a disorder that affects the fluency of speech. When a person is stuttering sounds, syllables, words, phrases or whole sentences may be prolonged, repeated or blocked.

  • Prolongations - “Mmmmy Dad said I could!”
  • Repetitions - “W - w - w - where is my train?”
  • Blocks/ hesitations - That is, the mouth is positioned to say the sound but no sound is actually said e.g. “I have a b_ _ _ _ ook about that.” It looks like the person cannot “get their words out”.

Stuttering is sometimes accompanied by behaviours such as eye blinking, lip tremors and tension in the mouth and jaw area. The symptoms of stuttering can vary over the day, from mild to severe, especially when the child is tired, unwell or excited. These symptoms also vary from person to person, coming and going over a period of time. Stuttering is also known as stammering or dysfluency.

What Causes Stuttering?

The exact cause of stuttering is not yet known. Genetic factors are implicated as stuttering tends to run in families however, many children who stutter have no family history of stuttering. It is believed that stuttering is most likely due to some problem with the neural processing (brain activity) that underlies speech production (Australian Stuttering Research Centre). That is, stuttering is due to a physical difficulty rather than due to psychological reasons or parenting practices.

Signs of Stuttering

Stuttering in preschool children is very common and usually appears at around 3 years of age. It is often first noticed when a child begins to put words together to formulate longer and more complex sentences. Onset can be sudden or gradual with varying degrees of severity. It may start with some repetitions, but as stuttering progresses, the child begins to have more and more difficulty speaking fluently.

Natural recovery

Some children will naturally recover from stuttering. However, it is not possible to predict, with certainty, which children will overcome stuttering without therapy. It is important to be aware that children will not “grow out of stuttering”, as many do continue to stutter into adulthood. Boys are less likely to recover naturally than girls.

Who diagnoses Stuttering?

A Speech Pathologist diagnoses stuttering. A Speech Pathologist is an allied health professional trained to assess and treat communication difficulties, including stuttering. A Speech Pathologist will assess the child and determine if or when therapy needs to commence, depending on the nature and history of the individual child’s stuttering. Parents should seek advice from a Speech Pathologist if their child begins to stutter. Children who stutter should be seen by a Speech Pathologist in their preschool years for best outcomes as treating stuttering in older children and adults can be more difficult.

Catherine Downs

Catherine Downs

Catherine Down is Platinum Pre School's preffered Speech Pathologist, she writes specifically tailored articles for the Platinum Newsletter and advises our staff on questions related to childhood speech development. Catherine is a Certified Practising Speech Pathologist (CPSP) with Speech Pathology Australia (SPA) and is an affiliate member of the American Speech - Language - Hearing Association (ASHA).

Catherine holds a BA in Psychology from the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG) and a BAppSc of Speech Pathology from The University of Sydney. Catherine's qualifications and experience give her a unique set of skills for dealing with clients who are having communication, literacy and learning difficulties.

To find out more about Catherine's services or to book an appointment, please call Catherine on 0417 255 062 or visit her website -

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