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Nonfluency and Stuttering in Children

Updated on October 16, 2012
There are two types of fluency problem in children
There are two types of fluency problem in children | Source


Children can present with different types of developmental speech problems, two of which are stammering and normal nonfluency. It is common for most children to acquire language without any accompanying fluency problem, However, the presence of a pattern of normal nonfluency during the period of language acquisition does arise with some children. This can be either a symptom of accelerated language development or the start of a pattern of beginning stammering.

It is well advised to consult with a speech and language therapist if you have any concerns about your child’s fluency as this article provides only general information and cannot address the individual needs of each child presenting with a fluency issue. However,by reading on you will get a good idea of the two basic types of fluency difficulties in children and gain a better insight to them


The first type of fluency problem noted in preschoolers or children up to the age of six is known as normal nonfluency, It occurs when the child’s pronunciation and vocabulary skills are better than their ability to formulate a sentence i.e. the child knows what he wants to say but cannot string the words together grammatically. Consequently, the child repeats the first word of a sentence as a means of prompting himself for what word to say next in forming the sentence. Normal nonfluency is characterized by whole word repetitions and is inconsistent in nature i.e. it changes over time. Sometimes the nonfluent child is completely fluent and at other times he is nonfluent. The absence of a pattern in the fluency problem and whole word repetitions are the hallmarks of normal nonfluency.

Children who are early or late in acquiring language often go through a period of normal nonfluency as part of their language acquisition process and they usually gradually grow out of the problem but it is best to have it monitored by a speech and language therapist.

Beginning stammering on the other hand is characterized by part-word repetitions or blocks and is similar in frequency and severity every day i.e. there is an established pattern of disfluency. Intervention from speech and language therapy is the best way to address this disfluency. The first pattern discussed above is known as nonfluency whereas beginning stammering is known as disfluency. There are numerous approaches in speech and language therapy to help the child with beginning stammering.

If your child is nonfluent or disfluent, the following guidelines may be useful in assisting you to deal with the problem:

1. It is important that your child gets enough rest and sleep as a tired child is often nonfluent or more disfluent.

2. Praising the child for fluent speech and emphasizing when he isn’t getting stuck is much more effective than focussing on the disfluency.

3.It is best not to try and correct the fluency by asking the child to slow down or repeat.

Indeed, there is a therapy approach for beginning stammering which emphasizes this focus on fluent speech as a way of building up fluency which is effective for the beginning stammerer.

Although this article gives some basic information and insight into childhood fluency problems, be sure to consult a speech and language therapist for individual advice and management if your child presents with either nonfluency or disfluency.

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