Does your child stutter? Is there anything you can do to help a stuttering child at home? As a parent, it’s natural to be concerned when you first notice your child having difficulty with speech.
It’s not uncommon for children to have an episode of stuttering sometime between the ages of 3 and 6. In fact, according to the latest research, at least 5% of all children are likely to stutter for some period. This may be a few weeks, months or even years.
Many studies have pointed out that most children outgrow stuttering or recover on their own by puberty. Usually, this occurs without the intervention of a speech-language pathologist (SLP). But, 1 out of 5 children who stutter continue stuttering into adulthood.
You should consult a speech-language pathologist (SLP) if:
- A child’s stuttering lasts more than 6-12 months
- Your child begins to stutter more often
- The (child’s) family has a history of stuttering
- Any child struggles to communicate or avoids talking altogether
- Your child begins stuttering after the age of 3.5 years
What Is An SLP?
An SLP can diagnose and treat speech & language issues including stuttering in children. The treatment depends on the age, symptoms and severity of stuttering in your child. Indeed, if your child is old enough to follow instructions, s/he can also benefit from a speech therapy mobile app.
There is no perfect cure for stuttering – yet! However, early professional intervention can help a stuttering child and lower the chances that the problem will continue. Studies indicate that early intervention helps increase the chances of a successful resolution of stuttering in preschool children by a factor of 7.7.
Besides SLPs, parents also play an important role in how a child perceives, reacts to and tries to overcome his or her stuttering. Our aim in this post, is to talk about how you can help a stuttering child at home.
Model Relaxed Speech To Help A Stuttering Child
Strictly avoid offering suggestions such as:
- ‘Slow down’
- ‘Try it again’
- ‘Think before you speak’
- ‘Can you repeat what you just said and say it more clearly?’
In doing this, a stuttering child becomes more conscious of their issues.
Instead of asking your child to slow down, model relaxed speech at home. Speak slowly and calmly in front of your child and encourage other family members to do the same.
Yes, this takes practice. When you think you’ve slowed your speech down, go down two more notches. We rarely talk as slowly as we need to model for young children who stutter.
This way, your child will get enough time to process all that is being said. It also allows them to catch up with all the thoughts going on in their head, while learning to respond slowly. A proven method, this is a terrific technique to help a stuttering child at home.
Take Turns Talking & Listening
A child who stutters will find it much easier to speak their mind when there are little or no interruptions. It is also important they have the full attention of a listener.
So, ask all adults and children in the family to take turns talking and listening. This will help your child get more comfortable while participating in a conversation.
If others are speaking all at once, a child who stutters may choose to keep quiet. Ask everyone to pause for a few seconds before and after a child who stutters begins speaking.
Don’t finish their sentences for them. Give them time to finish their own sentences and pause before you respond to their comments or questions.
Ask Fewer Questions To A Stuttering Child
Try to minimize questions when your child is speaking.
Young children are likely to speak voluntarily if conveying their own ideas, thoughts and experiences instead of answering a parent’s questions.
Pay attention to what they have to say and simply participate in the conversations they start. Increasing listening time during daily conversations or fun activities is one of the best exercises for children who stutter.
Spend One-On-One ‘Quality’ Time with Your Child
Be sure to set aside 15-30 minutes’ long “one-on-one time” for your child. During this time, get down on their level and give them your full attention.
Allow your child to decide what they want to do. Do they like fingerprinting? Do they enjoy playing with a ball in the backyard?
Let your child direct you in such activities. Don’t push your child to talk but allow them to make that decision. When they do start talking, speak in a relaxed tone and take frequent pauses. This quiet, one-on-one time can boost the confidence of your child.
In this way, they will know you truly enjoy their company. And, as children get older, such experiences help motivate them to talk more openly about their feelings and experiences, including that of stuttering.
Positive Body Language
Don’t be upset when your child gets stuck on a word or syllable. Use your body language to convey you are listening to what your child is saying and not the way they speak.
Most importantly, convey that you accept them as they are.
With an educational background Alana loves the science behind child development. Her passion is the way in which children learn and grow. After an accident that ended her career as a teacher she has dedicated herself to studying child development. She has been learning styles to help influence teachers with the needs of different children. She hopes to one day have a big impact in this space and we are so lucky to have her as part of our writing team. Alana is mum to 3 young adults and loves being a big part in their life.