Developmental Stuttering vs Long-Term Stuttering

My question is, is there an easy way to distinguish if the child is experiencing developmental stuttering and will grow out of it, or if they need to seek help from an SLP?

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Developmental Stuttering vs Long-Term Stuttering — 1 Comment

  1. Hello! This is an excellent question, thank you for asking the professional panel! The first thing to distinguish here with your question here would be the proper terms- what happens in typical child language development is a phenomenon called “developmental disfluencies” (it is not a type of stuttering.) When a child tries to tell a story at a young age (let’s say like the age of 3-5, maybe even 6) the child may become very excited and get to talking very briskly. Think of the ages/stages of the development of narratives before I fully answer this. A child does not even develop the ability to tell a cohesive story- with beginning, middle, problem, resolution, end, etc… all of the cohesive/tangible story parts, until the ages of 8-10… So think of your four year old individual that comes running in your therapy room to tell you about the frog that she found on the playground- are you going to get a full story of the account? Nope. What you are going to actually get is a rushed, hurried, and chopped version of what really actually happened. Understanding the development of child narratives- this will help you with your level of understanding from the get-go. 🙂 Developmental disfluencies are again, language-based and are characterized by whole word repetitions, phrase repetitions and interjections (like umm, uhh, fillers like that.) My son is a five year old in kindergarten and does this all of the time (“mom mom mom mom guess what? guess what mom? guess what? I saw a spider!!!)- now we do have true clinical stuttering that runs in our family, so should his disfluencies begin to become instances like sound repetitions, part-word repetitions, prolongations- characteristics that are not that of language development traits, that would be more representative of overt (or behaviors that we can see) stuttering characteristics. I get individuals referred to me often for “stuttering” when it is really developmental disfluencies- it happens very often, so this is something you will need to be able to distinguish. With that being said, I have diagnosed a child with stuttering as early as the age of 2 years old because they do truly stutter and it is not just developmental disfluencies- their speech fits what we know to be the nature of stuttering. Remember: the diagnosis of stuttering is not just data. It is so much more than that. We do take data, however, we interview the child’s parent (if we are evaluating a child, for example) get examples of school work, observe if we can (be a fly on the wall- watch during recess or a time when it is not obvious to the child’s peers that you are watching- act like you are watching other children too- like you are on bus duty or something.. that’s my favorite way to observe children in their natural settings with peers is during school dismissal times or lunch times, when so many children are involved that peers don’t know the difference- you don’t want to single out your individual so that it is noticeable who you are watching and trying to observe- and usually when I observe individuals in their school settings I am trying to multi-task and keep an eye on multiple children anyways, ha! Evaluations also include teacher reports, informal information- so much more than just counting disfluencies.. we do not just do an SSI-4 (for example, if this is the test you decide to choose) and say “this child stutters because the SSI told me so.” Absolutely not, this is not best practice and we know it is not- even the SSI manual tells us this. 🙂 So when we have done a holistic and thorough evaluation, which we should ALWAYS do in the individuals that are suspected to stutter. Never just do a screen only- this is not efficient enough. What we know to be the nature of stuttering, so many children could fall through the cracks if we just do an observation or a screen only and no evaluation. You must evaluate every child that is referred to you for suspected stuttering- even if they do not stutter during the “screen” due to the nature of stuttering. Once the evaluation is done, look big picture- is this developmental disfluencies (as I listed above) only or true stuttering? Stuttering may include whole-word repetitions and phrase repetitions as developmental disfluencies do, but stuttering will also include so much else whereas developmental disfluencies will not. I hope that this helps to answer your question as you will see this so often in the clinic room. Be a world changer, and advocate for people who stutter- you are already starting to!

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