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Other Conditions With Symptoms Similar to Stuttering

Many conditions can affect speech. In order to diagnose stuttering in your child, the following conditions will need to be ruled out as the primary cause:

  • Normal disfluency. This form of stuttering naturally resolves on its own, usually before puberty.
  • Hearing problems. When a child does not hear well, he or she may not speak normally.
  • Other sensory deficit. These problems can prevent a child from observing and practicing various aspects of speech. For example, a child with poor eyesight may have trouble recognizing body language or how words are formed.
  • Speech-motor deficit. Some children have speech irregularities due to nervous system or brain development problems.

Sometimes stuttering occurs along with another condition. In these situations, a health professional will try to determine whether stuttering is the primary or secondary problem. The following are speech problems that may be confused with or occur along with stuttering:

  • Cluttering. Speech is sporadic, fast, and jerky. Some slurring, irregular phrasing, pausing, or absence of syllables can also occur. The speaker usually is not aware of the problems.
    • Example of cluttering (spoken quickly and slurred): "I have muh-muh—ti-ti-time—money for a scoo ... uh ... thing you eat that's c-c-cold ... ice c-c-cream."
    • Example of developmental stuttering: "I have muh-muh-money for a scooooop of iiiiice cream."
  • Tourette's disorder, characterized by additional speech problems, interjections, and physical tics.
  • Spasmodic dysphonia. Speech has a muffled, struggling quality, as if the person is trying to talk while being strangled. Usually, this problem occurs only in people who are middle-aged.
By Healthwise Staff
Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Louis Pellegrino, MD - Developmental Pediatrics
Last Revised August 7, 2012

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