Causes of stuttering in toddlers

Submitted by Nic on May 23, 2013

Many toddlers between the ages of 2-5 years go through a stuttering phase. It may be a temporary phase after which they stop stuttering on their own, but sometimes it continues through teenage and adulthood. Stuttering in toddlers may be caused due to various reasons.

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Researchers are still trying to figure out the exact cause of stuttering. What is even more baffling is that many children do not stutter when they speak in a group or when they are singing, but when talking face-to-face with someone it can happen.

Experts feel that a combination of factors may be the reason for stuttering.


Some possibilities include:

  • Due to mental problems – In rare cases, glitches in the thought and reasoning process are believed to cause stuttering. It was at one time thought to be the main reason but now it is considered rare.
  • Due to brain injuries – Stuttering can sometimes be caused due to brain injury or trauma.
  • Language and speech problems – Stuttering can be caused when there are inconsistencies in the way the brain processes languages. The brain may process language in separate areas and may have difficulty sending out the correct signal to other areas connected to speech.
  • Inherited – Statistics indicate that 60% of stutters have other close family members who stutter too.

How to handle toddlers who stutter

Patience is the key. Adopt a wait and see approach because many toddlers go through a stuttering phase, while learning to talk or learning a new language, but most kids grow out of it. Wait till the child turns three before taking an expert's opinion. If the child is still struggling with his/her speech the pediatrician may refer the child to a speech therapist. It was earlier thought that toddlers and preschoolers were too young to receive speech therapy, but now experts feel that early intervention can help reduce the severity.

Therapists may also suggest some beneficial techniques which can help the child overcome his problem. This “at home therapy” usually involves suggestions for the parents on how to talk to a toddler who stutters. Some suggestions include:

  • Be calm, maintain normal eye contact and wait for the child to complete the sentence if he/she gets stuck. Do not interrupt.
  • Speak slowly so that the child can keep up with the pace.
  • Maintain a relaxed countenance. Don’t look frustrated when the child is speaking or the child may get even more self-conscious.
  • Try not to correct the child, instead just repeat the sentence so that the child knows you understood.
  • Don’t ever turn away if you are busy. The child will feel pressurized to get over with it, thereby making the stuttering worse. If you are busy, let him know before he starts speaking and promise to listen to him once you are done.
  • Don’t ask the stutterer to start all over again. This could make him nervous or awkward.
  • Always let the child know that you are proud of her and the efforts she is making to get over her problem. Let the child know that talking may be hard, but it is the effort that counts.
  • Do not pretend as if the child does not stutter or he may have reservations talking to you about the problem.
  • Encourage the child to sing or tell stories, if you know that the child likes doing that. Sometimes even sing along with her, thereby creating a comfortable environment for her.
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