Fluency Information for Parents & Teachers


In speech therapy, fluency refers to how smoothly a person’s words flow during conversation.  Most of us at one time or another have moments where we forget what we are going to say or have difficulty saying words.  We also pause as we think of what we want to say and might say “um” or repeat a word several times as we speak.  These are normal to hear in every day speaking and do not affect your ability to communicate a message.  In young children (ages 3-6), dysfluencies can occur as a part of normal language development, but usually decline after the child develops vocabulary skills. 


When disruptions in the fluency of speech are frequent and begin to disrupt a person’s ability to communicate verbally, it is referred to as dysfluent speech or stuttering.  There are four main behaviors that are considered to be true dysfluent behaviors:


Sound Repetition                                 Child says  “n-n-n-never”

Part-Word Repetitions                        Child says  “ba-ba-ba-by”

Broken Words:                                    Child says “nuh-ever”

Secondary Characteristics                   examples: grimacing, tics


When these occur in isolation or occasionally, these are not cause for concern.  When a person consistently produces speech marked by these characteristics in more than 10 per 100 words, then a person may be considered dysfluent.  At school, these dysfluencies are an area of concern if the child has difficulty participating in discussions, conversations or developing & maintaining social relationships.


Speech Therapists help students develop slower speaking patterns and teach methods of speaking that will help reduce dysfluencies in conversational speech.  Parents can foster good speaking habits in their children by following these suggestions:


  1. Give your child your complete attention when they speak to you.  Provide eye contact and try not to look away as they speak.
  2. After a child says a word that is dysfluent “say, that sounded a little bumpy, try that word again.”
  3. Your body language makes a big difference; avoid negative facial reactions or turning away during a moment of dysfluency
  4. Remind the child to use slow, easy speech before they speak
  5. Remind the child to use soft contact or gentle onset to start what they want to say
  6. If the child is totally unable to speak, say “think about what you want to say, then tell me in a minute.”  Sometimes saying it’s okay and then having the child try later come will help the child relax.
  7. When the child is excited, the child can become more dysfluent.  Again, have the child think about what they want to say before saying it.
  8. Be patient and calm. 
  9. Never penalize or punish a child for dysfluency.  This will most likely make the child more dysfluent.


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