As toddlers and preschoolers begin to develop their communication skills, it can be hard to infer whether or not they are truly stuttering. They may stumble over words or repeat themselves in the middle of a sentence. However, it is not uncommon for young children to have disfluencies in their speech. They may also have periods of fluency and disfluency. This can occur due to excitement, tiredness, or feeling rushed to speak.

Children are not expected to be 100% fluent during this time in their lives. They are still working on expanding their vocabularies and learning language rules. For most toddlers and preschoolers, the disfluencies go away on their own. In other cases, signs of stuttering begin to become more clear.

How can you tell the difference between typical disfluencies that will fade over time and non-typical disfluencies that may indicate stuttering?

Typical (Less Likely to Continue)

  • Repeating phrases and whole words – “I want to-I want to play” or “But-but I want to play”
  • Filler words (um, uh)
  • No tension/physical struggle when speaking
  • No negative reaction or frustration
  • No family history of stuttering
  • Disfluencies lasting less than 6 months

Not Typical (Higher Risk for Stuttering)

  • Repeating sounds/syllables – “Throw me the b-b-ball”
  • Sound prolongations – “Sssssssit with me”
  • Blocks (appears to be trying to make a sound but can not)
  • Physical struggle when speaking
  • “Secondary” behaviors when having difficulty speaking (hand tapping, eye blinking, throat clearing)
  • Negative reaction or frustration to speaking
  • Family history of stuttering
  • Disfluencies lasting longer than 6 months

If you are concerned about your child’s speech, speak with their pediatrician about getting a speech and language evaluation, or contact SpeechEasy to speak with a Provider and find the appropriate device!


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