A parent’s guide to stuttering
What is stuttering?
Shelby Merder a Speech-Language Pathologist with Reid Health Rehabilitation Services explains that stuttering or stammering is classified as “a speech disorder characterized by interruptions in the natural flow of speech. These disruptions can take the form of repetitions pauses or drawn out syllables words and phrases.”
What causes it?
The exact cause is unknown. Stuttering may be an inherited trait in families where the tendency to stutter is common. However many people immediately think this condition is caused by emotional problems or stress. The emotional problems children who stutter may experience are usually the result not the cause. Studies have shown that there are other more likely factors that cause children to stutter but there is rarely one single contributing reason.
Is it normal? Will my child grow out of it?
Stuttering is usually noticed in children ages 3-6 and effects about 4% of American children. As children grow and develop speech and language skills they may repeat words or phrases and use the word “and” excessively while framing sentences. This type of uncoordinated speech is a normal process of language development. This is why more than 50% of children seem to “outgrow” it.
However if the majority of the repetitions are partial words or prolonged sounds that show the child is having difficulty or frustrations getting the words out you may want to consider seeking professional help to guide your child in more coordinated speech or “speech fluency”.
What can I do to help my child?
The child’s environment and how parents relate to a child’s stuttering can contribute to the degree of severity. The Stuttering Foundation shares these tips for creating a positive environment for families with children struggling with speech fluency:
Reduce the pace – Speak with your child in an unhurried way pausing frequently. Wait a few seconds after your child finishes before you begin to speak. Your own easy relaxed speech will be far more effective than any advice such as “slow down” or “try it again slowly.” For some children it is also helpful to introduce a more relaxed pace of life for a while.
Full listening – Increase the amount of time you give your child your undivided attention and are really listening. This does not mean dropping everything every time he or she speaks.
Asking questions – Asking questions is a normal part of life – but try to resist asking one after another. It may more helpful to comment on what your child has said and then wait.
Turn taking – Help all members of the family take turns talking and listening. Children find it much easier to talk when there are fewer interruptions.
Building confidence – Use descriptive praise to build confidence. For example try “I like the way you picked up your toys. You’re so helpful” instead of simply saying “That’s great.” Praise strengths unrelated to talking such as athletic skills being organized independent or careful.
Special times – Set aside a few minutes at a regular time each day when you can give your child your undivided attention. This quiet calm time – no TV iPad or phones – can be a confidence builder for young children. Even five minutes a day can make a difference.
Normal rules apply – Discipline the child who stutters just as you do your other children and just as you would if he or she did not stutter.
When should I seek professional help?
Everyone can experience speech fluency interruptions from time to time but there are indicators that you may want to seek professional help.
- Your child’s stuttering has lasted more than 6 months
- It has increased over time
- It started after 3 ½ years old
- There is a family history
Your child may not meet these criteria but if you a family member or an educator still have concerns about your child’s speech fluency it is advised to seek assistance. Early therapeutic intervention is the most effective.
What can I expect from a speech & language pathologist?
Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) also identified as Speech Therapists are trained to evaluate and treat stuttering. SLPs take into consideration the severity the child’s reaction when they stutter and their attempts to “fix” their speech. They also consider how stuttering affects the child’s interactions with others and if it’s causing the child to do poorly in school.
Based on this information the SLP will develop a treatment plan for your child. Treatment typically involves identification of speech fluency how it makes the child feel and strategies to reduce or overcome it.
All of Reid Health’s SLPs have obtained their Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech Pathology from the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association. For more information on our speech therapy services or to learn about our Pediatric Therapy & Early Intervention program please call one of our outpatient rehab locations: Richmond (765) 983-3092 or Eaton (937) 456-1195.