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Parents should not panic if their preschool child is stuttering.  It may go away with time or can be overcome with medical attention or therapy.

When a preschool child starts to stutter, parents often become worried and are confused about what to do.  Stuttering is a speech disorder, in which the normal smoothness of speech is disrupted, says Dr. Tracy Milbrandt, assistant professor of pediatrics at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.  She explains stuttering.

SOUND BITE:   “Stuttering is a term that describes a speech pattern that includes repeating of the beginning sounds of words.  Sometimes it’s the repeating of an entire word in the beginning of a sentence and sometimes even the prolongation of a word.”

Stuttering usually begins when the child is progressing from using two and three word phrases to actually speaking in complete sentences or putting several sentences together.  She says it is caused by problems with sensory and motor development.   This means part of the brain and the muscles are not moving fast enough to produce fluent speech.  Dr. Milbrandt has some recommendations for parents. 

SOUND BITE:   “With parents of a child who stutters, we always recommend that they speak to the child in an unhurried way to help model good speech, pausing frequently to let the child answer questions in an unhurried way.  And avoiding any sort of criticism or instruction as they are speaking.” 

Dr. Milbrandt says if stuttering problems have continued for six months or more, she recommends seeing a primary care physician or pediatrician who may recommend a speech therapist for further evaluation and possible treatment.

This is Ruth Slottag at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.