How Can I Help My Child Who Stutters?

child-stuttering

First of all, take a deep breath. You are not alone! In fact, approximately five percent of all children have been noted to experience periods of stuttering and in the United States, over three million Americans stutter. Many well-known personalities such as Emily Blunt, John Stossel, Winston Churchill, Marilyn Monroe, and King George VI have all experienced stuttering in their lives. However, when your child stutters this message may hit a little closer to home.

You may notice that your child has been “having a hard time getting their words out” or may shy away from speaking publicly, may be less likely to raise their hand in class, or may become so frustrated with their stuttering that they don’t feel like talking at all. In today’s post, I’ll share some characteristics to look for, a few tips in how to respond to your child’s stuttering, and treatment of stuttering.

What is stuttering and what causes it?

Stuttering is a speech disorder which includes interruptions in the flow of speech. Most people produce brief “disfluencies” where a word may be repeated or the speaker says “um” or “uh,” especially when the speaker is just learning language before the age of three years. These are not considered a part of stuttering. True stuttering occurs more often and may impede communication. If you notice that your child is stuttering and it persists longer than six months, it is likely that this is a true fluency disorder. In addition, stuttering may be more prevalent in families who have other members who stutter and when stuttering begins after the age of 3 years.

The most common stuttering-related characteristics that you may hear in your child’s speech are:

  • “breaks” (i.e., as in “I am go—–ing to leave soon”)
  • “repetitions” (i.e., as in “I am going to to to leave soon” or “I am go go go-ing to leave soon” or “I am going to leave to leave to leave soon”)
  • “prolongations” (i.e., as in “Wwwwould you like to leave soon?”)

The exact cause of stuttering is unknown. Researchers continue to seek new information about stuttering and its underlying components. Recent research has revealed that stuttering is NOT caused by emotions or nervousness. We also know that stuttering is NOT the fault of the family or the person who stutters. It is believe that stuttering has both a neurological and genetic component.

Tips for responding to my child’s stutter

My biggest advice for parents with children who stutter is to not “pressure” or “punish” their children for stuttering. Most children seek to obtain their parent’s approval or to hear a nice “I’m so proud of you!” when completing a task. Applying pressure by asking a child to “slow down” or “just relax” may decrease a child’s confidence and leave them with the impression that they are responsible for their stuttering, which can be counter-intuitive for helping your child to speak “smoothly.” It is also best to not try to complete your child’s sentences for them when they “get stuck” or experience a stutter and it is more encouraging to maintain eye contact and wait for your child to finish what they are saying.

If you are enjoying family time or are with a group, it is helpful to encourage all members to take turns while talking and to listen to each person while they are speaking. A child who stutters may not feel comfortable interrupting or “jumping into a conversation” while others are talking and may shy away from speaking at all within a group if there is not a brief silence for them to “jump into the conversation.” It may also be helpful to monitor their facial expressions and body language and make sure to not grimace or cringe when hearing a stutter, but rather to listen patiently and to attend to what your child is saying and not how they are saying it. Overall, it is important to remember to always be encouraging and empowering for our kids who may stutter – they have a voice that needs to be heard!

How do we treat stuttering at Kid’s Creek Therapy?

A certified speech-language pathologist will evaluate your child through formal and informal assessments in order to determine the frequency of your child’s stutter and any physical or emotional factors which may accompany stuttering. Early intervention is important when addressing fluency disorders in order to provide your child with the “tools” and strategies that they need in order to speak “smoothly.” At Kid’s Creek Therapy, we offer early intervention treatment for preschoolers who stutter as well as therapy for school-aged children who stutter.

For preschoolers who stutter, comprehensive research studies have shown that the treatment program called the Lidcombe Program is the most effective form of stuttering treatment for this age group. Your speech-language pathologist is certified to provide the Lidcombe Program as a treatment option for your preschooler where treatment will focus on providing praise for encouraging stutter-free speech and providing occasional corrections for dysfluent speech using simple language and empowering feedback. The unique component to the Lidcombe Program is that it also focuses on the importance of parent involvement.

Parents and/or guardians are encouraged to take an active role in participating within each therapy session where the clinician will train the parent in how to deliver encouraging feedback to their child within their home environment. This aspect ensures carryover of strategies practiced within our clinic to the home setting where your child spends the majority of their time. For school-aged children who stutter, a modified version of the Lidcombe Program may be developed, or fluency-shaping strategies may be introduced based upon the unique needs of your child. Each child is an individual and there is no therapy program that is one-size-fits-all; speech therapy will address your child’s unique needs.

If you are a parent with a child who stutters, I hope that you are encouraged to learn more about the easy ways to empower and inspire your child to speak confidently! If you or someone you know would like to learn more about how we can help your child, contact us for a free consultation.

Rebecca Sabo, Speech Language Pathologist

Photo Courtesy Shahzeb Younas/Flickr

References:

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (2012). Stuttering. Retrieved from http://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/stuttering.htm.

Bothe, A. K., Davidow, J. H., Bramlett, R. E., & Ingham, R. J. (2006). Stuttering treatment research 1970-2005: I. systematic review incorporating trial quality assessment of behavioral, cognitive, and related approaches. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 15, 321-341.

The Stuttering Foundation (2015). F.A.Q. Retrieved from http://www.stutteringhelp.org/Default.aspx?tabid=17.

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