Getting Help if Your Child Stutters

QUESTION: Our 3-year-old will sometimes stutter and his preschool teacher suggested a speech therapist. Lately, he has chosen not to talk. She said that this frequently happens and that he will come around. However, I think this experience may have somehow set him back enough that it may be a while before he talks in complete sentences again. Is she helping or intimidating him? I would like to hear from other parents who have had a similar situation and what worked best.

ANSWERS: I would suggest that you contact the Childfind coordinator for your school district. Screening is a required service that is free. A speech/language pathologist will either be on the team or be available on a consultation basis. If testing indicates that your son needs the services of a speech therapist, those can also be provided by your school district. If he does not need services, you will be reassured and can reassure his preschool teacher. - Dianne Whitaker, Ph.D., Port Angeles, WA

I have a skilled staff here at the American Institute for Stuttering (a non-profit organization) and we have new information on the critical value of early intervention for stuttering. Stuttering is a genetic and neurological disorder and if the right things are done early, a lifetime of what can be a debilitating disorder can be prevented. It is also crucial that you seek the help of a specialist. If you are in the NYC area, contact us for at least a phone consultation. If you are outside the area, we can help with the proper referral. Please call 212-633-6400 or 877-378-8883. See for additional details. Other resources for stuttering are,, and - Catherine Montgomery, in NY

It is normal for children to experience periods of disfluency as they are developing speech and language skills. I would suggest talking with your son about school and things he likes about it and things he does not like. You can ask him about talking and if he likes talking or not, and who he likes to talk to the most. You can also reassure him that sometimes when we feel more comfortable with different people we are more comfortable to talk. It is always O.K. to talk with children of any age about talking. When he speaks to you, I would get down on his level, tell him you have plenty of time to listen (if you do), and reinforce communication by saying "I love that big story" or "You had such a good idea" or "I like how you told me that." These suggestions would also apply to the preschool teacher. If you and the preschool teacher have concerns about your son's fluency, I would recommend seeking guidance from a speech-language pathologist who is also a Board Recognized Specialist in Fluency Disorders. I would read the Stuttering Foundation's small book called If Your Child Stutters: A Guide for Parents as well as their DVD entitled Stuttering and Your Child: Help for Parents (; 1-800-992-9392). These materials will provide you with further information regarding early childhood stuttering. Early intervention is the key to prevention of stuttering in a young children. - Kristin A. Chmela M.A. CCC-SLP, Board Recognized Specialist- Fluency and Fluency Disorders, Stuttering Foundation of America and Jane Fraser, President Stuttering Foundation of America, in TN

Early intervention for stuttering in preschoolers and younger children used to be considered a hasty move. Now we know that language development is at its most potent and malleable state in these early years. An important point to consider is that sometimes stuttering can occur because of something psychological rather than something to do with learning or language-oriented challenges. This is different from having an actual stuttering problem. Today, for children who have been diagnosed with a stuttering problem, early intervention can be of great benefit. Be sure to have your son evaluated by a speech and language therapist recommended by your school district. If you have already done this and you see your son backpedaling, as you mentioned, you can always get a second opinion by asking his pediatrician for a referral towards an additional evaluation. However, the most important thing to remember is that the therapist works for you. If you are unhappy with her effort then you have every right to talk with her about this. Alternatively, there are many resources where you can obtain information and help in order to find someone who can best help your son. Some key sources to check out for additional details are listed above and most offer monthly newsletters as well. See and for other ideas and resources.


My 10-year-old son is organizationally challenged and is also gifted. The problem started out being small in the third grade when the teachers expected kids to be a lot more responsible for organizing their workspace, among other things. The school counselor met with my son a few times to give him tips and to monitor progress. He also suggested that my son undergo an assessment, which was done, and concluded that he has mild ADD. To what extent can I request the teacher to work with him to set up a good system for schoolwork and encourage better school habits?

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