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4 Ways to Help Your Stuttering Child

Submitted by on May 13, 2016 – 3:53 pmOne Comment

4 Ways to Help Your Stuttering Child

How Can I Help My Stuttering Child?

Stuttering is a widespread issue for thousands of children of all ages. It may be a problem for a few months, a few years, and in the rare case, all of their life. If your child is having difficulty with speech fluency, you may be thinking, “How can I help my stuttering child?”

Children commonly experience some problems with disfluency, which is the inability to speak fluently or without disruption, which may result in the child repeating parts of a word once or twice before saying the word, such as “th-th-this.”  As your child develops language skills, it is not uncommon for him or her to struggle with some syllables in newly discovered vocabulary.

Mild stuttering, which is not uncommon in children, is defined as repeating the same syllable more than twice on a regular basis. Stuttering is considered severe when the child stutters with more than 10% of his or her words and shows considerable effort when speaking. Some severe stutterers choose alternative words to avoid stuttering.

So how do you help your child?  

1. Pause when your child has finished speaking. This indicates that you have been actively listening and gives him or her a chance to relax. As the parent, always speak slowly and clearly so a pattern of less hurried speech is demonstrated.

2. Reassure your child that he or she can speak more slowly and that you are listening; this counteracts any feelings that he or she is not being heard over classmates or other family members. Encourage your child to gather his or her thoughts and relax when beginning to speak.  Self-confidence will grow and speaking will become easier with time and  practice.

3. Ask yourself, “How can I help my child be more relaxed?”  Althought he or she may not be a particularly nervous child, many children just become so excited at the opportunity to voice their opinions and questions that they stutter.

4. Pause after you speak; this is a good way to model that speaking need not be rushed. If you and other people your child is close to slow down their speech just a little, your child will benefit. Take the time to properly fully form and enunciate your words. However, there’s no need to speak so slowly that it becomes unnatural.

Why Stuttering Occurs

You may be wondering why stuttering occurs. The etiology is known for some factors, but many risk factors for stuttering are still unkown. What is known is that a family history of stuttering is common. Additionally, there are physiological factors that may contribute to stuttering. When a child begins speaking at about one year of age, in addition to learning how to communicate, physiologically the child is also learning to co-ordinate the movement of voluntary muscles in the oral area, including lips, tongue, and facial musculature. These are quite complicated and easily fatigued. This control is still very new to such young children and they may simply find their timing is off.  Most stutterers outgrow the behavior in five or six months.

However, the answer to how you can help your child stop stuttering may simply be…let it be. Slowing down and relaxing your own speech and that of close family helps because such modeling subtly gets across the message that not everyone is in a hurry to talk and that speech need not be rushed. Listening to children’s television can help adults learn to speak more slowly. Those programs are directed to young audiences and need to capture and retain their attention. Pay attention to how the adults speak on those programs to get an idea of good speech behaviors.

If your child still struggles with stuttering after six months, engaging the services of a speech pathologist may be helpful. Your pediatrician or local hospital can assist you in locating a certified and qualified practitioner, preferably one who has a certificate of clinical competence from the American Sign Language and Hearing Association.

Erica L. Fener, Ph.D., is Vice President, Business Development Strategy and Analysis at Progressus Therapy, a leader in connecting its candidates with school-based SLP jobs and early intervention service jobs.



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