By Hank Tester

PEMBROKE PINES (CBSMiami) – Stress caused by the pandemic can impact children who have a stuttering issue.

Jaxson Smith and his Speech-Language Pathologist Jessica Weaver are working on his mild stutter that his mom noticed while they were both home during the pandemic.

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“I started noticing it in quarantine because I was spending more time with him,” said Jaxon’s mother, Jennifer Smith.

He is not alone. There has been an increase in pediatric stuttering since the start of the pandemic.

Specialists are seeing many more cases at the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital Rehabilitation Center at Memorial Hospital West in Pembroke Pines.

“We have seen a 400 percent increase of children coming in to look into speech disorders such as stuttering,” said Weaver.

For Jaxson, the issue became noticeable when he, like thousands of other kids, was involved in remote learning.

“What was happening was I started to stutter because everybody was talking. I felt like I didn’t have time to talk because everybody was looking at me,” he said.

“As of right now, there is no definite cause of stuttering. We know that psychological events, such as anxiety, are not a cause. However, in children with a stutter it may increase the severity of stuttering which we might be seeing now with the environmental changes and rising anxiety over the past few months,” said Weaver.

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When Jaxson went back to the classroom, his teacher noticed the stutter.

“When he went back in person he would have his mask on. It seemed with his mask on, the teacher noted that stuttered,” said Jennifer Weaver.

Weaver reached out and got her son in the Memorial West program, where they work on strategies and educate patients to build confidence.

“Lots and lots of famous people stutter,” said Jennifer Smith.

“Yeah?” replied her son.

“Yeah, you know who stutters? The President!” she told him.

For Jaxson and other kids who stutter, it may become worse when they are excited, tired or under stress, or when feeling self-conscious, hurried, or pressured.

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“When people notice you are stuttering, they make fun of you, they can bully you. I don’t want him bullied or made fun of, I want him self-confident when he speaks,” said Jennifer Weaver.