26 answers

Speech Development

My 5 years-old son has difficulty saying words. He stutters terribly and speaks like a 3 years-old at times. I have taken him to be tested and he was placed on a waiting list for a speach therapist but what is it that I can do on my own. I feel that this is hindering him in his academic growth.

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

I have gotten SO much advise. THANK YOU ALL. My older sons had a stuttering problem as well but not as servere as my 5 years old. His hearing was testing and they found nothing wrong with it. The speech testing was done through Children's Hospital. He is currently attending a DC Public Charter School and may be attending a private school in the fall.

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My son who is now 13 has been in private speech therapy since he was about 2 years old. For the past 3 years he's been seeing a woman named Lori Sova-Speech-Language Pathologist. Lori is wonderful and has done a great job with my son, who will properly stop seeing her because he is not stuttering anymore and is definitely more fluent and articulate. I highly recommend her. She is located in Owings Mills/Reisterstown, if you are interested please e-mail me directly and I can give you details. ____@____.com - thanks.

I would ask the school that the child goes to to see their speech teacher. I know the school my child will attend has a speech teacher right at the school to do one on one with them. My son will be in pre-k this fall and has a speech problem and that is what they are going to do for him. I hope this helps.

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Is he in school? He should be tested in the school system if he is. Also check with your county and he could qualify for speech services through their preschool program.

If you had your son tested within the county Childfind program and he qualified for services, you should demand that they see him now. They have a short grace period before they have to start services but they can't just make him wait. They are required by law to meet his needs.
That being said remember that all kids develop at a different pace. Keep talking to him about EVERYTHING. Help him to pronounce the words correctly and be supportive! Good Luck!

Hi S.,
One of my children had a speech problem.He mumbled and stuttered. It took a while to find out but his was directly related to his hearing.He wasn't hearing us clearly, and repeated what he heard. When I couldn't understand him, and asked him to repeat himself, he would get frustrated and agitated causing the stuttering. If you haven't, I would have his hearing checked out by a specialist.

I noticed some language issues with my son when he was around 3. We visited doctors, etc where I consistently got the run around. My strongest recommendation is to be persistent. I was finally able to find a provider who really listened to me, and my son was identified with a moderate hearing impairment. He is now 11, speaks clearly, and wears a hearing aid while he is in school.

We were able to get help through the school system--even if your son is not yet in kindergarten, the schools can help with speech therapy. There are also often resources available through universities--especially those who offer coursework in the area you need.

Keep asking questions; keep checking his spot on the waiting list; ask everyone you know for resources, etc. If you have the financial means, take him to get a dx through a private office. Identifying the problem is the first step toward fixing it. But, most of all, trust your instincts. I overheard an audiologist arguing with a physician over my son. Following our visit, I calle the audiologist directly and asked her opinion. Although she couldn't speak out against the physician in question, she did answer some pointed questions honestly enough to keep me searching for the help we needed. It was a long road, but in the end well worth the effort.

Today my son is at the top of his class--in kindergarten he couldn't keep up! We took advantage of tutors and got to know teachers personally.

You are his best advocate. Fight hard. Good luck.

Can your 5 year old read yet? I remember reading about James Earl Jones, who is a stutterer. One of the interesting things about stuttering is that it doesn't affect reading or reading aloud.

Stress makes it worse.

I would think the best thing for your son would be to be very verbal with him and to give him lots of opportunities to practice is a relaxed atmosphere. Probably flash cards of pictures to give him practice naming objects or just pointing to stuff and such would be helpful.

I hope he gets into therapy soon. I was a lisp-er growing up. Speech therapy is wonderful.

Hi S.!
When my son was about the same age, he used to drag out his words, like he's say IIIII and then the rest of the sentence or anananand. The doc told us he thought his mind was working faster than his mouth. We pretty much just kept telling him to take his time & he out grew it. I don't know if the stuttering your son is doing is the same, but I know reinforcement is very helpful.
Good luck!

Hi S. B.,

I am a Speech Pathologist in Maryland. I recommend that you do an internet search on "Creating a Fluency-Enhancing Environment". Articles on this topic will give you information about how to create an environment in your home that will help your son be more fluent. Here are a few tips that should help:

-Don't interrupt him or allow him to interrupt others (creates time pressure)
-Don't ask a lot of open-ended questions (creates demands)
-Don't react to the stuttering
-Do activities that don't require talking
-Speak more slowly, but naturally
-Model normal dysfluencies, such as saying "um" or pausing while speaking (teaches that everyone is dysfluent at times)
-Show him that you have time to listen
-Don't tell him to slow down

Get him into speech therapy as soon as you can because therapy is more effective when started at an early age.

Hi, S.,

Have you had his hearing tested? That can be a huge hinderance in language development. Also, look into private speech therapy--a lot of insurance companies cover it with you just paying a co-pay (with my insurance it's $15.00 per session), up to a certain number of sessions per year.

Good luck! Definitely check the hearing, though!!! If he doesn't hear the words correctly or clearly, he'll stall with his language progression.

I have a question. Where have you had him tested? Is he is school? The public school system should help you out. I never heard of them having a "waiting list" for a therapist before thru them.

I just saw you had taken him to a provate evaluation, provide that evaluation to his public school immediately so they can get him an IEP and do it in the school! IT is FREE!
I work as a school counselor. If he is enrooled in public school, they are responsible to provide him with an IEP and provide speech services. If he is waiting to be evaluated they only have 90 days, so I am hoping that is of what you are speaking. If he is in provate school, homeschooled or you delayed starting him the rules are slightly different regarding time tey are required to give him...ex: 15 hrs a year. But there is NO reason he should be on a waiting list if he has been evaluated, qualified and is to get a speech IEP. If has been trhougha formal eval and you have reviewed the results and gotten an IEP THEY MUST PROVIDE SERVICES immediately! PLease look for resources online and if in Maryland, the MDSE website. They need to do this and if they are failing then you need to report them. The best place to find this info believe it or not is the local ARC for your state. Though your child is not mentally challeneged they can give you a lot of information about your rights!

Was he tested privately or by the county? All public school systems have early intervention programs and testing so even if he isn't ib school yet they try to identify kids with needs and place them in services to help them catch up. Call your local school board to get the information. The sooner the better.

Hi S.,

Contact www.kidspriorityone.org

or call them at ###-###-####

Good luck. D.

My 12yr old son WAS a severe stutterer. He could not say I love you Mommy without total facial grimacing and a lock down on "I." He went to speach therapy 3 days a week and speach at the school weekly for months. I sat in on the classes and learned how to work with him at home. We learned that a lot of his trouble came from me. I talked fast. I had to train myself how to slow down and speak clearly. One skill we learned was called "rubberband speach." It's when you take the word and s-t-r-e-t-c-h it out while he holds and stretches a rubberband. They played lots of games and talked during each of his appointments. It takes TIME to learn it all and consistancy is most important.
Some more helpful hints we learned: stress can be a factor sometimes. Keep in mind that it's his percepton of stress even if we adults don't see or feel it. It's hard for them in school. Kids can be cruel to other kids! We learned to encourage him and praise him for everything he did. Of course he was not allowed to misbehave, in fact we kept a tight rein on him. But we learned to focus on all of his good accomplishements and not dwell on the difficulties. If I said it once to him I must have said it a ZILLION times..."slow down and s-t-r-e-t-c-h it out. Try again." Many times I would have to stop what I was doing (not always easy to say the least) and bend down to his level and wait patiently for him to get it out. My heart hurt watching him struggle. Many times he would give up and not want to tell us when he'd have a hard time. But we would never let him get away with that. We calmly, slowly and lovingly encouraged him to tell us. We waited and we waited for him to get it out and he did! Being a single mom, you must be so busy. I can't imagine your workload. I commend you for being a good Mom.
We found that slowing down our home life and having him on a set schedule every day worked great. Our son responded to routine. I believe it eliminated a lot of stress he was feeling at home. School can be such chaos most days that he needed a quieter (with 2 younger brothers I don't know how quiet our home really was then)slower pace at home. We also learned that our son had many processing difficulties, short-term memory issues and he is severely dyslexic(which mimics ADHD in many ways).
He is now 12yrs old and unless he gets really excited you do not hear him stutter any more! Praise God! Email me anytime if you'd like ____@____.com Take Care, N.

#1 slow him down and calm him down, Mom used to tell me to let my tounge catch up to my mind because the most exciting* or beautiful* or interesting* thoughts were busting to get out, and reassure him to take his time and that you have time. Patience is paramount, lessen your anxiety about what may be a temporary thing. I used to have my son stand on a chair with me doing dishes and quiet repetative sentences, as a game. Like Tommy Turtle when to Tulameen. But one word at a time. We would build whole stories with a single letter. It helped until his therapist could encourage with more lessons and practice for speech.

I would ask the school that the child goes to to see their speech teacher. I know the school my child will attend has a speech teacher right at the school to do one on one with them. My son will be in pre-k this fall and has a speech problem and that is what they are going to do for him. I hope this helps.

I am a special educator. In regards to being placed on a wait list... You may have already done these steps, but just in case... You'll want to put your childs needs in writing with your local school. Under IDEA, Part C (special education law), the school must follow a specific timeline to evaluate your child. If the recommendation is that your child receive speech and language services, as your evaluation does, you'll want to create a plan (an Individualized Education Plan (IEP))with the school for receiving services. The school must follow the time-line for providing your child services, so if the services aren't started in time, they'll owe you compensatory education (they have to make up the services missed). You won't have to wait long. Good luck!

you're absolutely right...it is hindering him both acedemically and socially! My daughter had issues with her speech from the age of 2. I had her tested when she was 3 and 95% of what she was saying was unintelligable. I put her into the pre-school program at school and she had what is called an IEP (Individualized Education Plan). There was no waiting list. She attended pre-school and had one on one help for her speech with the therapist. Today she is 14 and speaks perfectly and is about to start Spanish in school. When she wasn't in school we worked with the Hooked on Phonics program to keep her involved in it. I am not sure what County you are in but tell them that you want an IEP for him. There are certain rights that you have as a student with an IEP...like not being stuck on a waiting list for a therapist. By law they only have so much time to perform certain things on the IEP or they can be held liable for not educating the child. It is a bigger deal than most people think!! Good luck!!


Hello! At the age of 5 - your child can be tested by your local county for an IEP (Independent Education Program) or 504 program for Virginia. Ask for Child Find - that's what they call it here in NOVA. I'm not sure where you live.

You can also contact your local school or day care center (you son should be in kindergarten this year, correct?) He will be tested by a certified person and then if found he has developmental delays or a disability, he will be given special education. He WILL be MAINSTREAMED, but he will receive a teacher during parts of the day for one-on-one education.

It will be okay. Do not take NO for an answer. YOU are your child's advocate. Don't let people put you off, as it happens in some places.

Please let me know what happens.

Take care.

My son who is now 13 has been in private speech therapy since he was about 2 years old. For the past 3 years he's been seeing a woman named Lori Sova-Speech-Language Pathologist. Lori is wonderful and has done a great job with my son, who will properly stop seeing her because he is not stuttering anymore and is definitely more fluent and articulate. I highly recommend her. She is located in Owings Mills/Reisterstown, if you are interested please e-mail me directly and I can give you details. ____@____.com - thanks.

I am not sure where you live, but most counties have ChildFind programs. If you contact the county, they will have to do testing, but if found eligible - they are required by law to provide services.

S., my almost 4 year old daughter is autistic and has a speech problem. I'm on a two month waiting list for a place in Virginia Beach. There is a terrible need for speech therapist is the Hampton Roads area. What I'm doing with my daughter is singing different songs to her because music is something she picks up rather quickly. One of the songs I sing is rather silly, but it works. Here are the words to it:

B A Ba
B E Be
B I bibby BI
B O Bo
Bibby Bye Boe Boo

For each consonant of the alphabet do this. It's really fun and the kids pick up quick. Have fun.

Hi S.,

Both my children had speech issues. My daughter tried to resolve them through the school system but that didn't really work. I'm not sure if I'm allowed to recommend someone but Susan Falk-Muten and Associates are the absolute best. Susan and her team specialize in speech therapy for children with language and feeding needs. 11710 Bowman Green Reston , VA 20190> ###-###-####. My daughter went once a week for 4 months and now has perfect speech and my son went once a week for the summer and has perfect speech now. They are very different kids but they both enjoyed the sessions because of the way the speech therapists worked with them. I can not recommend this group more! Good luck!

Good Morning.

Our 3 children each had/have speech difficulties, whether it be delay and/or articluation. First and foremost, please realize (perhaps you already have) that all children need a "tweak or two" in there development in order to allow them to grow into all that each can be. It is just our task to help them with these issues!

For our children, we opted to utilize "Infants and Toddlers" before they were three and then "Child Find" afterwards. Depending on where you live, City or County, will determine what program(s) you are qualified to receive. These are state run and are FREE. As tax payers, we help support and fund these programs so it only makes prudent sense to utilize them. And once tested, the program is required to offer services to your child if deemed necessary - not place him on a wait list. There are set guidelines and timeframes when services MUST begin. I will say that you are your child's best advocate and as such navigating through the system is sometimes daunting and frustrating. Just please keep pushing forward.

Also, the public school system in your area is probably the "go-to" at your son's age for speech/language services once he has matriculated into the above Child Find Program. If your son in also enrolled in the school, the therapist and administration will find the best time during his school day to offer therapy. Hopefully this makes it convenient for you and your son.

I will be happy to discuss this with you on the phone if you wish. Please let me know if I should forward my phone number.

For our eldest, we had a wonderful private therapist come into the house. She was a newly graduated Speech/Language Therapist who came to our home. She tutored my daughter, as well as another school-mate of our daughter's, weekly for 8 months. We paid $35/30 minutes. Both girls thrived!

I do not know where you reside. Here in Baltimore Loyola College offers speech/language therapies. There prices are discounted somewhat as graduate students tutor the children, obviously under direct supervision from the professor's and advisor's.

Some of the at-home exercises we do include: blowing bubbles, eating chocolate pudding through a straw (no joke - as this helps them strengthen mouth muscles and practice lip and tongue control and you would not believe how great this works), going through flash cards, playing games and having the kids just ask for what they want, not point. Having your son have to use words to express his feelings and desires will also help. So often, we know what our kids want and will just give it to them, without having to ask. I know that I am guilty of this, as with three children sometimes we are so hurried, I just forget to slow down long enough to practice what I preach.

Good Luck. Keep asking for help. Again, I will be happy to discuss this further with you.

My son did this. He's now 7, and thinking about it, I can't remember the last time that he stuttered, lately. When he would stutter, it was usually when he was excited or frustrated. Which would make him more frustrated! We would tell him to stop, take a deep breath, let it out(!), and to slowly pronounce each word. That usually helped.

Like others here have said -- keeping stress levels as low as possible is good since stress makes stuttering worse. Why is he on a waiting list if his stuttering is this bad? Is it because you're waiting for school-provided therapy? I'm just checking. If that's the case, you might consider getting him private speech therapy so he can get helped sooner. Use Google to search for speech therapists in your area. You should find one that specializes in young children's speech problems. It's kind of pricey (I paid about $50 per 45-minute session when my daughter had therapy once a week) but it was well worth it and it only took three months to straighten out her problem. Your son's issues may take longer. You may find very different prices in your area, too. Good luck and don't push him too hard, just keep talking to him a lot and using the best possible speech when you do so he can model you! Have your older kids read with and talk to him a lot too; he will like the attention as well as hear regular speech.

My daughter also had the same developmental delay. I was told by her doctor when she was 3 that she had a problem. Talking with my daughter's speech therapist (she sees her in school), take about 15 minutes a day to correct the words they say wrong. Because if you do it more than that...the kids may get frustrated and will just storm off. Take the words he says incorrectly and just have him watch the position of your mouth and tongue. Eventually, he will get it.

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