In the first few years of children’s lives, their brains are processing thousands of new words and sounds. This can often cause children to have a stutter. For many children, the stutter disappears on its own, but for others, this is not always the case. This is where treatment with a Speech Pathologist can make a big difference!
What is stuttering?
Stuttering is a speech disorder causing disruption to the rhythm or flow of speech. Stuttering is characterised by dysfluencies (i.e. interruptions) such as;
- Sound repetitions (e.g. m m m my teddy)
- Part-word (e.g. Ca ca ca can I play?)
- Whole word repetitions (e.g. you you you can have a turn)
- Phrase repetitions (e.g. I want I want I want a drink)
- Prolonging sounds (e.g. wheeeere’s my teddy?)
- Blocking (e.g. I……………………(no sound but lips in position for speech) want this one.
Stuttering can be mild, moderate or severe, and can vary within the same individual across speaking situations and from one day to the next.
So how do I know if it is really a stutter?
There are subtle differences between what is described as a “normal” dysfluency and a true stutter. A child developing a “true” stutter is more likely to display the following:
- increased occurrence of dysfluencies (over 4 repetitions typical)
- more sound repetitions
- more part-word repetitions
- more sound prolongations
- uncontrollable pitch changes (voice shifts from high to low)
What impact is stuttering having on my child?
Preschool and school-aged children may experience force or tension when they speak, negative responses by others and an awareness of their stuttering. As children who stutter get older, they are more likely to have negative attitudes about their stuttering, be teased or have social difficulties. These can also continue into adulthood. If left untreated, adults who stutter are more likely to avoid speaking situations, may not always express their opinions and experience anxiety about speaking. Stuttering may also limit a person’s educational or occupational opportunities.
How can I help my child who stutters?
• Slow down your own rate of talking.
• Give them extra time to finish talking.
• Be interested in what they have to say rather than how they are saying it.
• Give praise and support, comment on great words they use, their expression instead than focusing on the stutter.
• Maintain normal/good eye contact, so you show you are listening.
• Reduce the number of open questions you ask. Offer choices instead, e.g. “would you like this one or that one”.
Other tips to keep in mind.
- Try to avoid saying things like “ slow down” or “take your time”.
- Model an easy, relaxed way of talking.
- Avoid finishing your child’s thoughts even when they stutter.
- Maintain openness and honesty. If a child mentions their stutter, it’s OK to acknowledge that you noticed it too.
- Don’t ask your child to recite in front of other people if they do not want to.
Should I seek treatment for my child who stutters?
If your child is showing distress of their speech difficulty. If you are anxious in any way about their speech/language development or if there is a family history of stuttering, it is best to seek treatment early.
If you are having concerns about your child, who stutters consult a Speech Pathologist for an assessment and further information on treatment options.