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Stuttering in preschool: a good thing?

Posted by Dr. Claire McCarthy  September 6, 2013 01:44 PM

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Thumbnail image for preschooler.jpgIf there's anything that freaks the parents of preschoolers out, it's stuttering. When kids start stuttering, parents start worrying that kids will make fun of them and they will be behind in school and have emotional problems.

A new study published recently in the journal Pediatrics suggests that just the opposite might be true. 

Researchers in Australia studied more than 1600 preschoolers. They found that quite a lot of them did (11.2%), and that over the 12 months they studied them, very few of them stopped. Boys were more likely to stutter than girls, as were twins and the children of college-educated mothers. 

But stuttering didn't cause the children any social or emotional problems--and here's what was really interesting: the kids who stuttered were a bit healthier and had stronger language skills and nonverbal skills!

That doesn't mean that stuttering is never a problem. Parents should always let their doctors know about it, and should definitely seek help if their child:
  • Is still stuttering at age 5
  • Is getting worse (at any age)
  • Is upset by the stuttering
  • Is avoiding talking
  • Has other trouble talking besides stuttering
  • Has other behavioral or developmental problems
But the study should reassure the parents of preschoolers, especially since the majority of children who stutter at that age will stop. In the meantime, along with not worrying about it parents should do their best not to make their child self-conscious. Be patient and attentive, let the child get the words out. Don't correct them or make them repeat words, as that likely won't help. Model speaking slowly to your child, and try to avoid making them talk in situations when they are likely to stutter; try to encourage speech when things are calm and quiet if possible.

Is there something you'd like me to write about? Leave me a message on my Facebook page--and "like" the page for links to all my MD Mama blogs as well as my blogs on Thriving and Huffington Post. 

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About MD Mama

Claire McCarthy, M.D., is a pediatrician and Medical Communications Editor at Boston Children's Hospital . An assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a senior editor for Harvard More »

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