Talk about stuttering with preschoolers?

A speech-language pathologist asked, "Is it appropriate to talk about stuttering with preschool children?"

This is actually one of the most common questions we are asked. For years, speech-language pathologists were hesitant to talk about stuttering with young children--even going so far as to avoid the word "stuttering" altogether! Much of the fear that clinicians have about discussing stuttering with children stems from an old theory (the so-called "diagnosogenic theory") that suggested that drawing attention to a child's speech disruptions would increase the likelihood that the child would develop stuttering. 

Today, we know that this theory was not true. Talking about stuttering does not cause children to stutter. On the contrary, talking openly with children about their speaking difficulties can help to reduce their fears and thereby help to prevent the development of negative attitudes that characterize older children and adults who stutter.

Of course, how we talk to children about stuttering matters. We want to be supportive in addressing stuttering, so children can learn that they are not doing anything wrong. When we help them see that stuttering is nothing to fear, they will be less likely to tense up and struggle as they try to avoid stuttering.

We say much more about how we talk with young children about stuttering in Chapter 6 of Early Childhood Stuttering Therapy: A Practical Guide. For now, we want you to know that it is okay to talk to children--even very young children--about stuttering. 

J Scott Yaruss

Written by : J Scott Yaruss

J. Scott Yaruss, PhD, is a professor of Communicative Sciences and Disorders at Michigan State University. He has published more than 70 peer-reviewed manuscripts, more than 115 other papers on stuttering, and several clinical resources, including the Overall Assessment of the Speaker's Experience of Stuttering (OASES), Early Childhood Stuttering: A Practical Guide, School-Age Stuttering Therapy: A Practical Guide, the Minimizing Bullying program, and more (all published by Stuttering Therapy Resources, Inc.).