Dysfluent speech or stuttering is when a child gets stuck on a word in a sentence and repeats it several times. In language development, it is typical for children to repeat a word 2–4 times at the beginning of a sentence, however they may develop more dysfluent speech where they repeat a single word many times (6+ times), draw out the initial sound of a word (e.g. “wwwwwwe” for “we”), or repeat the initial sound of a word several times (e.g. “t/t/t/t/ today we went…”).
You may even notice that your child gets stuck on words as if they are struggling to push it out, where you see noticeable tension in their face or other unnatural body movements or behaviours. When it becomes an effort for your child to communicate or when the stuttering difficulty begins to interfere with your child’s communication with others, it may be useful to have a fluency assessment to determine whether your child’s dysfluent speech is typical or whether they would benefit from strategies to help improve their speech fluency.
What does a fluency assessment look like?
Gathering of a detailed client history: When assessing your child’s fluency, we will obtain a detailed case history from you as the primary parent or guardian. If your child is older, we may ask them questions. We might also gather information from your child’s teacher or other caregivers to see whether there is a difference in speech fluency depending on the situations or environments your child is in.
Obtaining fluency samples: During play, interaction and natural conversation with your child, we will obtain at least two fluency samples and write down the number of words that are stuttered. We will also document what type of dysfluency is observed: either a word repetition, sound prolongation, repetition of a sound or body movement associated with the dysfluencies.
Reading passage (if old enough): If your child can read, we will also try to document the number of words that are stuttered during reading.
What does fluency therapy look like?
As with other speech and language therapy, it is important to incorporate your child’s interests into each session. We will provide parents and caregivers with strategies that will help your child’s speech fluency. Your child will learn strategies to help change “bumpy speech” into “smooth speech”, strategies to support more fluent speech, and ultimately how to overcome fears or negative feelings associated with their stuttering.