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What if my child doesn't recover?

One of the more common questions that clinicians are asked by parents of young children who stutter is, “What will happen if my child doesn’t recover?”

It is clear from the research that the likelihood of a complete recovery from stuttering behavior diminishes significantly the longer a child stutters. Recovery from the behavior after approximately age 7 (ish, or so) is less likely. This does not mean it's impossible, but it is not something we typically expect to see.

Note, however, that I said recovery from the behavior. Just because a child exhibits stuttering behavior does not mean that he must necessarily experience a stuttering disorder. It is entirely possible for people to stutter (i.e., exhibit disruptions in their speech) without experiencing the negative consequences that characterize the stuttering disorder (fear, anxiety, embarrassment, shame, communication difficulties, adverse impact on quality of life, etc.).

This, in fact, would be a good outcome for therapy for a school-age child who stutters: not experiencing a disorder even if he continues to exhibit the behavior.

A child who stutters but does not have a stuttering problem would be able to communicate freely and do anything he wanted in his life without being held back by stuttering.

Thus, when parents ask me this question, I talk to them about the distinction between the behavior and the disorder, and I help them see that we will work to ensure that their child does not experience negative impact as a result of stuttering.

Of course, we will also work toward reducing the frequency and severity of those speech disruptions, through various speech and stuttering modifications, as appropriate for each child.

Ultimately, though, I want the parents to encourage their child to speak freely and say what he wants to say, regardless of how fluent it is. That way, they can continue to enjoy communicating with their child without worrying at all times about whether he is fluent or not.

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.).