Approximately 5% of all children go through a period (from a few weeks to several years) of stuttering in their lives. Nearly 80% of children recover from stuttering or stammering within a few months or years. For the remaining 20%, however, stuttering may continue into adulthood.
There is no permanent cure for stuttering or stammering.
However, early stuttering treatment, self-therapy, professional therapy sessions, stuttering support groups, and proactive efforts on part of primary caregivers including parents can keep the speech disorder from continuing into adulthood.
Here in this post, we will shed light on the seven best ways parents can help kids who stutter. Read on.
1. Be Sure the Child Feels Supported
Children who stutter should feel accepted and supported by their near and dear ones.
When possible, parents should have a one-on-one discussion with important adults in the life of their child such as teachers, personal trainers, mentors, etc. Let them know about your child’s stuttering problem and explain how they can be helpful.
How non-parental adults interact with a stuttering child can have a huge influence on the way s/he learns and acquires skills or confidence to take on everyday challenges and embrace simple pleasures each day has to offer.
2. Know that There Maybe Some Complications
Stuttering can affect a child in more ways than most people can imagine.
Your child may –
- Prefer not to participate in (or dislike) some activities
- Have lower self-esteem
- Have difficulty making friends or socializing with other people
- Have poor academic performance
- Struggle with bullying in school
While parents should try to address the root cause of the problem i.e. stuttering or stammering, it is equally important to individually respond to other issues.
You can, for instance, talk to the teachers and request them to ensure a school environment safe from bullying.
Stress and anxiety resulting from complications of stuttering in children can lead to speech disfluencies continuing into adulthood.
3. Model Gentle and Relaxed Speech for a Stuttering Kid
Children observe parents and other family members. They tend to emulate how their parents, siblings, etc. talk or listen.
Therefore, parents need to model gentle and relaxed speech in the family. Here are the top tips on how parents should communicate with a stuttering child:
- Pay attention when you are listening to your child; as much as possible, give your undivided attention when you talk to a stuttering child
- Talk slowly to your child and take turns talking; do not interrupt a stuttering child when s/he is speaking and wait for her/him to finish a sentence (followed by a brief pause) before you start talking. This way, s/he will know that there no reason whatsoever to rush to speak.
- When possible, let your child lead the conversation. So, instead of asking a lot of questions or pushing your child to talk (to you or anybody else), let her/him speak when s/he feels like doing it.
- Completely avoid distractions such as radio, TV, smartphones, etc. to make family conversations more inviting for a stuttering child.
- If your child brings up the subject of stuttering, do not hesitate to talk to her/him about it.
4. Focus On Building Confidence
Praise your child when s/he speaks correctly; do not react negatively when s/he gets stuck; focus on what your child is saying and not how s/he is saying it.
Try to maintain eye contact when you talk to your child. Do not exhibit signs of being upset when your child stutters.
Remember not to reprimand or ask her/him to repeat a sentence; if necessary, just repeat back a sentence (in which s/he got stuck or couldn’t pronounce some words) to acknowledge that you’ve understood her/him.
5. When Stuttering Increases
Do not force a child to speak/read aloud, or to think before s/he speaks when stuttering increases.
There will be occasions when your child doesn’t want to talk.
During this time, just encourage activities that do not require talking. This will help your child get relaxed and regain the will and confidence to talk.
6. Help Your Kid Use an Anti-Stuttering or Speech Therapy App
Children above the age of eight can normally follow instructions and respond to stuttering or stammering related guidance from parents, teachers, speech therapists, etc.
So, it may be helpful to get them on a speech therapy app for about half an hour on a daily basis. This way, parents, too, can also learn a lot about speech disorder and numerous ways to overcome or manage it.
With the right information, parents are in a better position to help kids who are struggling with speech disfluencies.
Even small breakthroughs, such as developing the ability to speak one word the stuttering child had a hard time speaking previously, can be highly satisfying and pave way for more improvement in the near future.
7. When to Consult a Healthcare Provider
Consider calling a healthcare provider if –
- Your child is afraid to speak due to stuttering
- Your child always tries to avoid situations that require talking
- Your child is not talking at all
- Your child’s speech sounds strained
- Your child is experiencing numerous problems in school
- Your child’s stuttering has lasted more than six months
A speech-language pathologist can best ascertain whether the child is suffering from developmental, neurogenic, or psychogenic stuttering.
Be sure to share your family history of speech & language disorders with the expert you approach for stuttering diagnosis, testing, or treatment.
The recommended treatment or course of action for controlling stuttering will depend on your child’s age, symptoms, and physical and mental health. It will also depend on the severity of the speech disorder.
For children below the age of 6 years, the Lidcombe program – a behavioral treatment program – is generally recommended for the treatment of stuttering. It is administrated by parents at home in a child’s familiar, everyday environment.
You can visit the SLP on a weekly basis to understand how to administer the Lidcombe program. If a therapist is involved, parents may need to devote significantly more time to complete the program.
The majority of children will outgrow stuttering. But even those who continue stuttering as adults can learn how to manage or overcome it.
With the right tools, advice, and temperament, it is possible for a child to turn stuttering into an opportunity for self-improvement.
There is no dearth of people in various spheres of life (ranging from sports and entertainment to business and politics) who after a period of struggle due to stuttering, have scripted life stories that inspire millions.