Children love to talk our ears off, most of the time asking “why” to everything and anything we say. It can be difficult as a parent to notice a difference in your child’s speech, maybe a slight stutter when they are excited? Or when they are trying to tell you about what they learned in school? Well, stuttering is more prevalent than you think.
Approximately 5% of people will stutter during their lifetime. Now I know, 5% doesn’t seem like a lot, until you remember that there are 7.53 billion people in the world! This means that 376,500,000 people in the world have been diagnosed with a stutter at some point in their lives. Now it sounds more common, right? And new research has told us that this number is actually increasing.
One reason that stuttering exists more prominently in children is due to their development triggering a stutter. Don’t worry, it’s not as scary as it sounds. Let me explain. We all know the saying “they grow up so fast”. At times, it can appear that children literally grow overnight, but as their bodies are growing, so are their minds. As children learn more and more brand-new information every day, their mind must process all the new knowledge, which can lead to their brain functioning slower and more inefficient. Think of a computer for instance. If you have 15 tabs open, downloading three videos, and trying to check 200 emails all at once, chances are your computer will be running a little slower than usual. This same concept applies to children’s brains working overtime while they are processing new information constantly. This is a common “trigger” for stuttering. Once the child’s brain “catches up” in a sense, then stuttering can appear to decrease.
Not only can our children’s rapid learning of new information trigger a stutter, but their physiological development can play a factor also. As I stated before, children seem to grow before our eyes. Not only are their minds and bodies growing though, so are their motor skills, emotions, and their speech and language abilities. All these areas of development are in a sense “competing” with each other. This means that if a child experiences rapid growth in one area, another area may be at a standstill for a little while. Think of children who experience HUGE growth spurts but appear to be the clumsiest people on the planet. Their coordination/motor skills may be at a standstill while their bodies continue to grow. I remember spilling my glass of milk almost every night at the dinner table and being told I was so “clumsy”. I attribute that now to my “growth spurt” (even though I’m still short). All in all, there are high demands on our children’s growing bodies and minds, and this can be a common trigger for a childhood stutter.
Most children will “grow out” of their stutter, and their minds will catch up. It’s important to note though that there are multiple other factors that could trigger a stutter, and this is one of many. Regardless of what causes the initial stuttering onset, it is simply a speech disorder, and the good news is that there are many resources (like Speechagain) to help you along the journey.