Speech Problems: Normal Disfluency
Normal disfluency is stuttering that begins during a child's intensive language-learning years and resolves on its own sometime before puberty. It is considered a normal phase of language development. About 75 out of 100 children who stutter get better without treatment.footnote 1
The most common normal disfluency in children younger than age 3 is the repetition of one-syllable words or parts of words, especially at the beginning of sentences ("I-I want that"). After age 3, children with normal disfluencies most often repeat whole words ("You-you-you") or phrases ("I see—I see—I see"). Other problems may include:
- Hesitation with interjection. ("I played on the ... uh ... swing.")
- Incomplete sentences with change of focus. ("My bear—the towel is dry.")
Symptoms may occur in phases. There may be periods of days or weeks when they occur frequently, and then almost disappear, only to begin again.
Children with normal disfluencies do not usually have physical symptoms, such as eye-blinking or obvious frustration. They do not try to avoid speaking or seem bothered by their speech. They may not even appear to notice.
Stuttering that follows the pattern of normal disfluency occurs only once in every 10 sentences or less.footnote 1 Many parents recognize these symptoms as a normal part of speech development.
If you have any concerns about your child's speech, talk with your child's doctor.
Current as of: September 20, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Susan C. Kim MD - Pediatrics & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Louis Pellegrino MD - Developmental Pediatrics