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What is Stuttering?

Stuttering is a disorder that affects the fluency of speech. When a person is stuttering sounds, syllables, words, phrases or whole sentences may be prolonged, repeated or blocked.

  • Prolongations - “Mmmmy Dad said I could!”
  • Repetitions - “W - w - w - where is my train?”
  • Blocks/ hesitations - That is, the mouth is positioned to say the sound but no sound is actually said e.g. “I have a b_ _ _ _ ook about that.” It looks like the person cannot “get their words out”.

Stuttering is sometimes accompanied by behaviours such as eye blinking, lip tremors and tension in the mouth and jaw area. The symptoms of stuttering can vary over the day, from mild to severe, especially when the child is tired, unwell or excited. These symptoms also vary from person to person, coming and going over a period of time. Stuttering is also known as stammering or dysfluency.

What Causes Stuttering?

The exact cause of stuttering is not yet known. Genetic factors are implicated as stuttering tends to run in families however, many children who stutter have no family history of stuttering. It is believed that stuttering is most likely due to some problem with the neural processing (brain activity) that underlies speech production (Australian Stuttering Research Centre). That is, stuttering is due to a physical difficulty rather than due to psychological reasons or parenting practices.

Signs of Stuttering

Stuttering in preschool children is very common and usually appears at around 3 years of age. It is often first noticed when a child begins to put words together to formulate longer and more complex sentences. Onset can be sudden or gradual with varying degrees of severity. It may start with some repetitions, but as stuttering progresses, the child begins to have more and more difficulty speaking fluently.

Natural recovery

Some children will naturally recover from stuttering. However, it is not possible to predict, with certainty, which children will overcome stuttering without therapy. It is important to be aware that children will not “grow out of stuttering”, as many do continue to stutter into adulthood. Boys are less likely to recover naturally than girls.

Who diagnoses Stuttering?

A Speech Pathologist diagnoses stuttering. A Speech Pathologist is an allied health professional trained to assess and treat communication difficulties, including stuttering. A Speech Pathologist will assess the child and determine if or when therapy needs to commence, depending on the nature and history of the individual child’s stuttering. Parents should seek advice from a Speech Pathologist if their child begins to stutter. Children who stutter should be seen by a Speech Pathologist in their preschool years for best outcomes as treating stuttering in older children and adults can be more difficult.

Toys & games to aid Speech & Language Development


Playing with a variety of toys, games and books help with speech and language development. When thinking about toys to purchase or borrow for your child, consider toys that are not only fun to play with, but also encourage your child to talk. Here are some ideas for you.

• Colourful and interesting Picture Books, e.g. lift the flap books.
• Farmhouse and animals (to promote animal sounds and early animal names).
• Vehicles e.g. cars, trucks, diggers, aeroplanes, buses
• Bath toys, e.g. ducks, fish. Bath time is a great time to practice sounds.
• Noisemakers e.g. drums, castanets, echo microphone.
• Dolls / figurines with accessories e.g. doll + clothes, bath, bottles etc.
• Dolls house and furniture.
• Tea-set, cookery set, play food.
• Toys that make animal sounds/ vehicle sounds.
• Age appropriate children’s music CD’s and DVD e.g., The Wiggles. Remember to join in singing and dancing along to their favourite music. Talk about what is happening on the DVD.
• Dress ups (particularly for 3 and 4 year olds!)

Preschoolers - as above, but also:
• Books (as above). Look for books where the words of the story are on the same page as the related pictures.
• Early board games and games, e.g. The Shopping Game, Bus Stop, Pop Up Pirate, Connect 4.
• Paper, paints, crayons and textas.
• Bug catcher.
• Binoculars and magnifying glass.
• Play doh and modelling clay.
• Alphabet letters and matching pictures for early phonics development.
• Charades (picture cards to prompt charades).

Language mediates all aspects of learning and social interaction. Understanding words and concepts helps your child learn new information. Expressive language allows your child to tell you what they have learned, how they feel and what their own, unique, ideas are.

Encourage your child to express themselves with words and gestures. If your child is experiencing speech and/ or language difficulties consider how this may affect their ability to express themselves with their peers and how it may affect their learning and
social confidence. Some speech difficulties are not simply grown out of. 


Speech & Language Tips related to "Marine Madness"


Make a splash in your child’s speech and language development this month by using marine inspired activities to help their communication skills develop!

Speech sounds

Try making “water sounds” with your voice to encourage your child’s ability to say /s/, /s/ blends and /sh/. This is a fun thing to do whilst engaging in water play.

You could describe how a sea creature moves into and through water, how the tap sounds while it fills the bath or bucket, or even they sound they make when they jump into the pool, “Splash!”

Encourage your child to listen and watch how you say the sounds to improve how they say it.

Practice saying the names of sea creatures, starting with short names (e.g. lobster) and then move on to more difficult names, e.g. anemone, crustaceans.


Talk about how to define different marine creatures, where they live, how they feed, their habitat and how they lay eggs. Think about how to describe the features of marine life and how certain fish or creatures got their unusual names. Use specific language to talk about the various aspects of this topic.

Some games and activities to share:

  • Interesting and colourful books can be found in the local library or in bookstores. Depending on the age of your child, you could select pop-up or informational books to read to your child.

  • Sing nursery rhymes together and do the actions (e.g. Three little fishies, A sailor went to sea, sea, sea).

  • Play games e.g. “Jolly Octopus”.

  • Creative Arts - invent a sea creature and make it out of recyclables or make your child’s favourite sea creature together.

  • Walk along the beach and search for shells and rocks.

  • Investigate rock-pools together.

Pre-literacy skills

  • Counting syllables: Tap out the number of syllables in the names of sea creatures, e.g., urchin -> 2 beats / syllables.

  • Associate the sounds you hear in the words that are used in this topic to their alphabetical form, e.g. Octopus -> “O”.

  • Talk about the first and last sounds you hear in the names of sea creatures.

  • Make-up rhyming words for sea creatures.

Most of all… have fun talking about this topic!

If you would like further information about any of the above information, please contact Catherine on 0417 255 062.

The Animal Kingdom


Take inspiration from the animal kingdom to have fun communicating with your child this month! Animal sounds are often some of the early “words” children say, as they share enjoyment in reading a colourful book or during play with toy animals. Encourage your babies and toddlers to make animal sounds and respond to their productions of those sounds as if they are words. Play with your voice by varying your intonation and volume while you are saying the sounds to make them sound fun and interesting. Loud animal sounds could include a lion’s “roar”, a cow’s “moo” and a horses “neigh”. Softer animal sounds could include a bird’s “chirp” or a bee’s “buzz”.

You can increase your child’s vocabulary for animals by listening to what they are saying, and modelling the appropriate word for that animal. That is, when your child starts to say animal sounds or attempts to name them (e.g. “woof” for dog or “wave” for giraffe), imitate them and say the name of the animal slowly and clearly, e.g. say, “yes, woof….dog. A dog says woof!” Use your voice to emphasise the animal name.

Older children may already be naming animals. Try categorising animals together, such as animals that can be pets, animals that live in the jungle, animals that live in the countryside etc.

Talk about the specific names for animals, the features (e.g. horse’s mane, fetlock), their habitat and the foods they eat. You could also talk about the names for their young, such as a calf, a fawn, a joey.

Some activities to try at home are:

  • Reading: Select picture books e.g. “Where’s Spot?”, “Animalia”, “The Wonkey Donkey”. Older children may enjoy choosing information books that have detailed illustrations about animals they like.

  • Drawing and craft: Paint, draw, create animals to show all the specific features of the animals (shapes, patterns, colours, body parts).

  • Role Play: Dress-ups, face painting, moving bout in the way each animal moves, animal sounds.

  • Charades: Play Charades together encouraging everyone to guess the animal.

  • Sounds & letters: Listen for the first sound in animal names, count the syllables in animal names (e.g. elephant = 3, hippopotamus = 5), try to spell how an animal name phonetically.

  • Sing songs and nursery rhymes together.

  • Use gestures to signify different animals e.g. raised paws for a bear, snakey arm, movements, creeping fingers, hop like a kangaroo.

If you would like further information about any of the above information, please contact Catherine on 0417 255 062.

Communication & School Readiness

School Readiness

In pre-school and at home language is used to communicate with and to teach your child. When preparing your child for school, think about the classroom environment in which they will be learning. If your child has difficulties in understanding and using language, these may become more apparent when he/ she is in a busy classroom. You can help your child prepare for school by practicing skills for the classroom such as; following spoken instructions, listening, responding to questions, and telling their news.

By school age, children of 4½ to 5 years of age are expected to be able to manage the following language skills effectively:

Receptive Language - This refers to comprehension/ understanding. That is, the understanding of spoken and written language, such as following instructions and understanding a story.

A 4 ½ to 5 year old;

  • Follows three step directions independently, e.g. “Get your lunch, put your hat on and line up at the door”.

  • Understands concepts related to sequence, e.g. first, second, last, after.

  • Has an emerging understanding of the concepts of time, e.g. yesterday, tomorrow, days of the week and seasons.

  • Shows an interest in stories, books, letters and numbers.

  • Responds to what, where, who, when, how and why questions.

  • Identify the first sound in words.

Expressive Language - This refers to the ability to express ideas, thoughts and feelings in a way that other people can understand. This includes using the correct words to convey meaning, as well as using appropriate sentence structure and grammar.

A 4 ½ to 5 year old;

Is understood by everyone; not only familiar people and family members. This is in terms of both speech sounds and word order in sentences.

  • Speaks clearly using these sounds correctly; s, z, f, sh, ch, j, y, l, m, n, p, b, k, g, h, t, d, w.

  • Uses sentences approximately six words which include the/a, prepositions (e.g. in, under, on) and appropriate grammar (e.g. pronouns - he/she/they etc.).

  • Explain how something familiar works or what something is used for.

  • Explains why something happened.

  • Attempts to draw and/or write to express their ideas or tell stories.

  • Categorises items into groups, e.g. cow, donkey, chicken…farm animals.

  • Asks questions using what, where, who, why, when and how.

  • Can retell a story or tell you about an event.

  • Follows a simple conversation.

Speech and language continues to develop throughout childhood and adolescence. However, a significant number of children (approximately 25%) start school every year with a language disorder or delay (Speech Pathology Australia, 2011). Effective Speech and Language skills play an important role in long-term academic and literacy success.

If you have any concerns about your child’s speech and language development, please do not hesitate to contact me on 0417 255 062.

Catherine Downs

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Catherine Downs

Catherine Downs

Catherine Down is Platinum Pre School's preffered Speech Pathologist, she writes specifically tailored articles for the Platinum Newsletter and advises our staff on questions related to childhood speech development. Catherine is a Certified Practising Speech Pathologist (CPSP) with Speech Pathology Australia (SPA) and is an affiliate member of the American Speech - Language - Hearing Association (ASHA).

Catherine holds a BA in Psychology from the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG) and a BAppSc of Speech Pathology from The University of Sydney. Catherine's qualifications and experience give her a unique set of skills for dealing with clients who are having communication, literacy and learning difficulties.

To find out more about Catherine's services or to book an appointment, please call Catherine on 0417 255 062 or visit her website -

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