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What are the Different Causes of Stuttering in Children?

Florence J. Tipton
Florence J. Tipton

The causes of stuttering in children might occur from a neurological injury during a developmental phase or from a psychological factor. Neurogenic stuttering — relating to nerves in the body — may cause stuttering after a serious injury to the brain that alters areas of the nervous system. Developmental stuttering is typically noticeable during early childhood development when small children are learning to talk. Psychogenic stuttering — originating in the mind or emotions and not the body — relates to an emotional or mental stressor that may cause stuttering in children.

When a child suffers a head trauma, signals that control speech patterns might not work normally, causing neurogenic stuttering. Parts of the nervous system that once controlled the connection between the brain and speaking ability are compromised. As a result, a child might have problems related to the activity of speech and formulating words in the brain.

Toddlers may stutter as they learn their native language.
Toddlers may stutter as they learn their native language.

Often during the toddler years, a child is learning her native language. Generally, the brain is slowly searching for words to articulate sentences than the child wants to say. At this age, stuttering may arise from the anxiousness to communicate faster than the brain comprehends speech.

Another cause of stuttering in children deals with the mind. Known as psychogenic factors, medical experts once considered these as primary causes of stuttering in children. Now, research has progressed to view psychogenic factors as contributors to stuttering, rather than direct causes.

For example, a separate speech problem may exist and exacerbate stuttering because of underlying stressors. These stressors could be fatigue, low self-esteem, or nervousness. In some children, feelings of anxiety about a life-altering event could also be a stressor that causes the onset of stuttering.

Reasons for stuttering may vary between toddlers and older children. As mentioned previously, the early language development phase may cause toddlers to stutter. Over a period of time, this phase disappears along with the stuttering. For older children who begin or continue to stutter after the language development phase, the cause could be related to a neurological or emotional issue.

Additionally, certain risk factors may contribute to stuttering in children. A family history of stuttering may exist for most children who continue to stutter beyond the toddler years. Some experts also believe that neurological factors increase the chances of boys experiencing long-term stuttering episodes. This pattern is seen less frequently in most girls within the same age groups.

Some form of speech therapy to improve language patterns might be necessary based on the cause of stuttering and other accompanying behaviors. One likely reason for therapy is if stuttering continues beyond the age of five. This could indicate that it is probably not part of child development. When a child shows unusual fear in a place or situation and stutters, parents might want to seek professional therapy.

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    • Toddlers may stutter as they learn their native language.
      By: jolopes
      Toddlers may stutter as they learn their native language.