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Important Information about Children who Stutter

Current evidence suggests that stuttering is a neurologic, rather than a primary psychological disorder, affecting areas of the brain concerned with hearing and speech. It typically appears early in life, soon after a child begins speaking. The impact of stuttering is commonly underestimated. Even seemingly "mild" stuttering may have significant long-term psychological and social consequences. The so-called "covert stutterer," for example, is actually struggling constantly to replace "hard" words with "easy" words on-the-fly, fearing the moment at which a word cannot be substituted, as when reading aloud or when introducing oneself or others, at which time their stuttering will be "exposed."

Recent studies indicate that early intervention is crucial to the remediation of stuttering, by enabling "rewiring" of the still-developing and malleable neurologic pathways in young children. Though the majority of preschool children who seem to stutter might eventually "grow out of it," the "watchful waiting" approach may actually cost the rest of those children the opportunity to derive maximum benefit from speech therapy, as the aberrant pathways are ultimately "hard-wired" into place. There is no consistently reliable long-term "cure" for stuttering once an individual has reached adolescence.

Many children exhibit early signs of stuttering in the preschool years, though many may outgrow stuttering or learn to master their fluency.  Unfortunately, we cannot predict which children will develop normal fluency and which will continue to stutter.  Early assessment, diagnosis and treatment are critical for ensuring the child’s long-term communication success.

Children who might be starting to stutter should be referred promptly for further evaluation, to a speech-language pathologist who specializes in that area. The National Stuttering Association can help you or the child's parents identify such resources in your locality. You may contact NSA by email at or call 1 800 We Stutter (1 800 937 8888).


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