So tonight (actually weeks ago, just finally getting around to finishing), I get this text from a close friend, who happens to have a 3-year-old son.  A little background...this friend is a co-worker in my current school setting.  She is an intervention specialist, so we work closely together providing intervention to many school-aged children.  She has sat in numerous meetings with me and has probably listened to me recite just about every speech and language disorder, symptoms, treatment, etc.  Probably being my most tech-savy friend, I am quite certain she has already researched googled the question and received her answer, but she must be trusting in me enough to ask anyway.  Thus follows her Disfluency Debacle.  The text reads, "Hello my favorite speech expert!!" (I am hooked already, can you see why?).  "In the last week or so, my son has started stuttering pretty bad.  It's only the first sound of the first word in a sentence."  (Now you see why I know she has already googled it, I mean I can't take credit for teaching her that well when recognizing disfluency/stuttering behaviors.).  And then it goes on to ask the concerned mom question..."Is this normal?"

So, as speech-language pathologist and friend, how do you respond?  I've hopefully learned to educate others, balancing appropriate concern.  So, it is normal to stutter during the preschool years? 

My fast texting fingers response, "normal non fluency happens for lots of 3-year-olds, may last for a period of time and if it's initial sounds, syllables and/or whole words repeated, it's often totally normal." (Remember, she is an intervention specialist, so I could use some jargon in my response).  And then I clarified it with, "that doesn't mean it is not stuttering, but this period of normal non fluency is common and he's likely going through a period of language expansion!"

Here is some research on the normally disfluent child from The Stuttering Foundation, compiled by Dr. Barry Guitar, University of Vermont, and Dr. Edward G. Conture, Vanderbilt University.
  1. The normally disfluent child occasionally repeats syllables or words once or twice, li-li-like this. Disfluencies may also include hesitancies and the use of fillers such as "uh", "er", "um".
  2. Disfluencies occur most often between ages one and one-half and five years, and they tend to come and go. They are usually signs that a child is learning to use language in new ways. If disfluencies disappear for several weeks, then return, the child may just be going through another stage of learning.
And now, my quick text tips/suggestions, included the following:
  • Allow extra time for the child to speak, avoid interrupting.
  • Provide undivided attention, make eye contact and wait.
  • Repeat the child's utterance slowly, so the fluent model is what the child hears.
  • Refrain from calling attention to the disfluency, the child does not need to know a word was said three times before moving on.
Luckily, there are many others that have developed some tips for normal non fluency and have taken the time to list many strategies for those instances when texting a friend is necessary!  I found this helpful page from Christine Livingston, MA, CCC-SLP.

If you are a speech-language pathologist, what response would you text a friend?  Have you found any useful sites or resources to share on normal non fluency?  If you are a parent of a child possibly experiencing disfluency, have you texted a friend or searched for information?  I'd love to hear from you.

Since I began typing this post, I have also received a concerned parent call from a parent of a older elementary student.  Perfect timing was this guest post by Lauren at Busy Bee Speech over at Playing With Words 365 (which is the first speechy blog I started to follow).  She offers warning signs and tips to help.  Thanks for the wonderful resource!

I've also now linked a site that has a wealth of information for SLPs, parents and teachers regarding stuttering.  You can fine it HERE.  I especially use the child "rating my speech form."  Last year I also came across this site to help with diagnosis and ongoing assessment.

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