Stuttering and the next steps for your child.

Written by Kate Grimes


5% of children will stutter under the age of five years. Of this number 25% will go on to have a stutter after age five. Stuttering or dysfluency can take a number of forms but generally it is the repetition of sounds and words. Your child may sound like they are ‘getting stuck’ on a word or part of a word e.g. ‘I I I I want a juice’. Generally children go through a normal period of stuttering/ dysfluency between the ages of one and a half to five years. These periods can last from a few weeks up to a few months. Your child may stutter for a period of time, it will disappear and then reappear at another time. When should you consider getting some more support for a child that stutters?

If your child is under five it may be worthwhile considering a speech and language assessment for the following reasons:

  1. If your child’s stuttering persists for more than three months.
  2. If your child is visibly upset/ aware that they are stuttering.
  3. If there is any physical tension that happens alongside a stutter e.g. frowning, neck tension, teeth clenching.
  4. If there is a family history of stuttering.
  5. If there is co-occurring speech and language difficulties.
  6. If your child is struggling to get their message across in a way that can be understood.

When your child’s stuttering persists beyond age five it may be worthwhile to get a speech and language assessment for the following reasons:

  1. If your child is stuttering on more than 10% of what they say.
  2. If your child’s stuttering persists for more than a few weeks.
  3. If your child shows anxiety or stress related to their speaking.
  4. If there is any physical tension that happens alongside a stutter e.g. frowning, neck tension, teeth clenching.
  5. If there is a family history of stuttering.
  6. If your child is getting negative reactions from family members or from friends (e.g. at school).

How to react when your child stutters?

Here are some general guidelines about how to react to a child that is stuttering:

  1. Using positive language related to stuttering (I use the terms ‘smooth talking’ versus ‘bumpy talking’). This helps to normalize the stutter rather than it being the ‘elephant in the room’.
  2. Slow down the speed that you speak to your child. Model this reduced speed of talking in front of your child. Children are great imitators. They look to you as their role model and will readily copy you!
  3. Giving specific positive praise when your child uses ‘smooth talking’. ‘Well done that was really smooth speaking!’
  4. Try not to remark on your child’s stutter in a negative way. Instead give more attention/ positive comments when your child uses ‘smooth talking’.
  5. Try not to finish their phrase for them. Allow your child time to say what they are trying to say. In making time to listen to your child you can help keep them motivated to try again the next time.
  6. Model taking a breath before saying a sentence. By doing this you are showing your child you are also taking your time. This should help to slow down their rate of speaking.
  7. Using a visual/ picture can help a child to remember to ‘slow down’ when speaking. I have used a picture of a turtle as a reminder to ‘slow down’ and a picture of someone taking a ‘deep breath’ to remember to take a breath before ‘I use my sentences’.
  8. In therapy sessions I model ‘bumpy’ versus ‘smooth’ talking and encourage the child to recognise when they hear me using a ‘bump’ versus ‘smooth talking.’ I do this to build up listening skills and the child’s ability to discriminate when they hear smooth versus bumpy talking.
  9. Keep a diary of the times when your child stutters. This information will be very helpful to a professional if you decide to bring your child for an assessment. Sometimes when we take records of the stutter other significant information may become clear e.g. the stutter is only happening in the evening time/ only happening in a group activity/ only happening with certain people.

 

 

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