“WHEN my son Pratham was two-and-ahalf years old, he repeated a few words like ma-ma-mamma. Although I found it cute initially, I didn’t find it normal when he was unable to say certain words correctly. It was too early for us to judge because he was young, and just learning to talk. But, the problem only grew with time,” remembers Mumbai-based Sonal Dhadda. Stuttering affects people of all ages. The onset of this condition occurs more in young children. “Stuttering is a disorder where there is dysfluency of speech like that of stuck type-writer keys. Occasional stumbling of words does happen in toddlers when they’re excited, upset or tired. However, speech dysfluencies affect more than 10 per cent of children aged two to five years,” says Bangalore-based Varsha Jevoor, speech language pathologist, Winds O’ Change. Contrary to popular view that stuttering is an effect of an emotional problem, there are several factors that could lead to stuttering. “Developmental, neurogenic and psychogenic are three types of stuttering. Developmental stuttering occurs anytime between oneand-a-half to three years because this is the time when there is rapid speech development in a child. Neurogenic stuttering occurs due to injury (head injury, stroke, etc.) or disease in the nervous system, and emotional trauma causes psychogenic stuttering,” says Varsha.
THE RED FLAGS
Your preschooler’s speech may, at times, be peppered with repetitive sounds of a word because his mind is busy learning to voice his thoughts with sounds or words. However, watch out for few indications. “The child repeats a part of a word like ‘pi-pi-pi-picnic’ instead of the whole word or prolongs a word or part of a word, like ‘baaaaaaaaa-ball’ instead of ‘ba-ba-ball’. He could display tension in the voice, face or neck, avoid eye contact or appears frustrated with the inability to say a word. The struggle may also show up in the form of blinking of the eyes, pounding fists, stomping legs or turning away while attempting to say the word or substitute words or stop talking in the middle of a sentence because he might stutter,” says