Dear Sharon,

Our preschooler stutters sometimes. Should we seek help for him?

Dear Parent,

All preschoolers stumble over words as they learn our complicated language. Some children stutter as they try to figure it all out.
I asked Karen Gorman, MA CCC-SLP, a speech and language pathologist, to help answer this question. She said, “It is fairly typical that many children will begin to stutter on their words between 2 and 31/2 years of age. If the stuttering is a natural developmental phase it should resolve on it’s own in a few months.”

Here are some ideas to keep in mind as you and your child live through this period.

1. Be relaxed and patient when your child is trying to speak, don’t hurry or correct him. Be careful not to show your exasperation with his struggle to pronounce things clearly.

2. Slow down the pace of your life. A child’s pace of doing things is much slower and more methodical than an adult’s. When possible keep the number of transitions in your day to a minimum and try not to hurry through your daily routines. Karen suggested that you slow the pace of your own speech as well.

3. Reduce the tension that is around your little one. If there is arguing in your home do what you can to limit the conflicts. Keep heated discussions between adults or other family members out of earshot if possible. If you or any other adults are upset about adult problems try to limit the amount of time your child is around this stress. If you are often upset with his behavior pick one or two things to help him with and let your other worries go for now.

4 Play with him. Make sure the things you pick are things he loves to do and have no worry of success or failure connected to them. Karen suggested that singing songs or talking about pictures or storybooks can take some of the focus off the pronunciation effort.

5. Praise him. Children do many things every day that are major accomplishments. Make sure you appreciate his successes even if they are minor ones. Praising him for the things he does well will help him feel less frustrated by the areas that remain difficult for him.

Karen suggested that parents can seek an assessment by a Speech and Language pathologist if the stuttering continues beyond 2 or 3 months, the condition appears to be getting worse, or your child is showing signs of great frustration with the inability to say things easily.

If you decide to get outside help meet with the person before they start working with your child. Ask questions about their approach and make sure their personality and ideas are a good match for your son. Ideally the therapist should be fun and gentle with your child and have suggestions of things that might help at home. If you would like to contact Karen Gorman you can do so at

Best of luck as you enjoy watching your child master the complicated art of language.