Questions to distinguish normal disfluency from developmental stuttering

Normal disfluency is stuttering that resolves on its own. It can be difficult to distinguish between normal disfluency and mild development stuttering. The distinction is important because developmental stuttering requires treatment in order for speech to improve.

When talking with a parent about a child's speech patterns, a health professional may ask whether the child typically:

  • Repeats whole words or entire phrases.
  • Makes word or phrase repetitions more than once every 8 to 10 sentences.
  • Has repetitions that are more than two syllables.
  • Appears frustrated or embarrassed from the difficulties in talking.
  • Has physical symptoms, such as blinking eyes or tension around the mouth.
  • Adds extra sounds (like "uh") or unrelated words (like "well") when starting a word.

Parents may also be asked if their child sometimes:

  • Makes no sound at all for several seconds while trying to talk.
  • Forces sounds to come out by physical movements, such as nodding the head.
  • Substitutes simple words for those that are more difficult.
  • Quits talking in the middle of a sentence.

The more positive answers a parent gives, the greater the likelihood that stuttering is a chronic problem (developmental stuttering) rather than normal disfluency.

Last Updated: August 25, 2008

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