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Dear Dr. Teresa,

My son is three years old and tends to "stutter". When he starts to talk, he often repeats the first word a few times before speaking. Should I be concerned?

Suzie.O. Douglaston, NY

Dear Suzie,

Being dysfluent, repeating words and sounds, pausing, and using fillers like "um" is very normal, especially in development. Learning to talk is the most difficult thing your child will ever do. His thoughts and ideas will develop faster than the motor and language organization skills he'll need to express them will. It's important not to pressure children. Give your son the time he needs to express himself.

If his dysfluent behaviors begin to interfere with effective communication and if he starts developing secondary behaviors like muscle straining, tapping, eye blinking and the like, you should consult with a speech-language pathologist. You may want to look out for excessive part-word repetitions, repeated syllables without the vowel (e.g., "buh, buh, buh, buh bike" vs. 'by, by, by, by, bike"). Also, be sure not to name the behaviors you see as "stuttering" to your child.


Dr. T

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Highlights Magazine Free Booklet