When to Refer

Children with severe stuttering problems should be referred immediately. Children who have mild stuttering problems that have not shown marked improvement within six to eight weeks, depending on the child, should also be referred. These children should be given direct treatment if it is warranted, and their parents will receive support and guidance, and they will be followed carefully.

Some children with mild problems may receive direct treatment, but it should be carefully planned so as not to make the child feel apprehensive or self-conscious about the problem. Children with normal disfluency do not need to be referred unless the parents are so concerned that they need reassurance about the normalcy of their child's speech. They may also be followed by the speech clinician to provide additional guidance if needed.

The speech-language pathologist should have a Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC-SP) from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, and should also be licensed by the state in which he or she practices. Certification requires a master's degree from an accredited university, a national examination, and a year of supervised internship. In addition, the speech-language pathologist to whom a child is referred for stuttering should be experienced with the disorder. Many hospital and university speech and language clinics will have such persons on their staff or can suggest one. Most school systems also employ speech-language pathologists. The Stuttering Foundation of America provides referrals to qualified therapists in most areas of the country. Their toll-free telephone number is 800-992-9392. They also provide books and DVDs for parents: Stuttering and Your Child: Help for Parents , a 30 minute DVD; Stuttering and Your Child: Questions and Answers, a 64 page book; If Your Child Stutters: A Guide for Parents , 7th edition, a 64 page book; Stuttering: For Kids By Kids, a 12 minute DVD for children; and for teenagers Do You Stutter: A Guide for Teens , all for a nominal cost. Click here to find these products.

Conclusion

Pediatricians, family physicians, and other healthcare providers are often the first professionals to whom parents turn for advice about their child's disfluencies.

These professionals can help in the prevention of stuttering. Early identification of children at risk for chronic stuttering and appropriate referral is critical. Moreover, effective parent counseling can often create an environment conducive for children to outgrow their disfluencies.

The authors of this booklet too often meet severe adult stutterers whose parents were told "Don't worry, he'll outgrow it" so that the opportunity for therapy when the disorder is most treatable has been missed. We have repeatedly found that when children are referred early, treatment is most effective, even in cases of severe stuttering. Early intervention prevents the development of lifelong habits that interfere with social, academic, and occupational success.