Stuttering has received national attention lately thanks to a brave 13-year-old who spoke at a national convention and revealed he struggles with this issue. Many people have a general understanding of stuttering, but it is a complex issue that deserves more attention. Stuttering is a condition that is characterized as a speech and language disorder. It affects approximately 5-10 percent of children and typically emerges between ages 2 and 6.

Stuttering can include repeating parts of words (i.e., “g-g-g-o”), holding word sounds (i.e. “ssssssstop”), repeating one-syllable words (i.e., “don’t-don’t-don’t do that”), and having an inability to get a word out. These speech difficulties are known as disfluencies. Many people struggle with a word or two from time to time, whereas stuttering is an ongoing pattern of disfluencies. People who stutter can experience a greater difficulty speaking in highly emotional situations, such as when nervous or excited. Conversely, stuttering can create embarrassment or shame, which can lead to the avoidance of speaking in front of others or talking on the phone.

Like many disorders, the exact cause of stuttering is unknown. However, family history and brain differences are believed to play a role. Parents who suspect their child has an issue with stuttering can seek evaluation from a speech-language pathologist who is trained in assessing speech disorders and administering these tests. Speech-language pathologists are also treatment providers who can help your child develop strategies to minimize the impact of stuttering.