For Parents

How to identify stuttering

Normally, the first signs of stuttering appear between the ages of two and five and tend to disappear on their own during later childhood. Three-quarters of children who stutter will recover naturally, however, those who do not may experience a lifelong speech disorder.

During the period of normal verbal development, it may be difficult to identify a real speech problem. Parents should pay attention if by age five their child continues to stutter, presenting excessive pauses in their speech, or frequent repetitions of sounds or syllables. Stuttering is often accompanied by facial twitches or body movements, so it is also worth seeing if your child has any physical signs of struggle when trying to speak.

If you’re concerned about your child’s speech, talk to your doctor and find a certified speech therapist. They can then properly evaluate and determine the severity of your child’s stuttering and the best course of treatment. Early intervention with speech therapy yields the best results and  can help prevent a stutter from continuing into adulthood. Why not join us and talk to other parents in a similar situation?

How to behave?

The way you approach stuttering can greatly influence how your child feels about it. In addition to finding a good speech-language therapist for their child, it is important that parents adjust their communication style to better assist their child’s needs.

Getting angry or putting pressure on your child when they struggle with their speech can cause distress and make their disfluency worse. Just telling your child to ‘slow down’ or ‘speak clearly’ is counter-productive. Be as patient as possible, speak calmly and slowly, listen to what your child has to say, not how they say it. Let them finish their sentences and show support when required. Avoid making facial expressions of being annoyed, upset or frustrated by the child’s stutter.

Simple things such as making a phone call can be very stressful for someone who stutters, so avoid forcing your child into situations that make them feel uncomfortable. Importantly, do not discuss your child’s stuttering with others in their presence. This will only embarrass them and affect their self-esteem.

If your child is frustrated or sad because of stuttering, try to reassure them – with words or just a hug – that it’s okay and that struggling to speak at times is fine. At the end of the day, everyone is facing some kind of challenge we don’t know about.

Most children who stutter will outgrow the disorder over time, but if by school age your child continues to stutter, check with the school if they offer support services that could help. Explain your child’s communication challenges to their teachers so they can address the situation appropriately when necessary. For a student to feel safe and comfortable in the classroom, they need the help of parents, teachers, and potentially the school’s speech therapist if there is one.

The best results are achieved when the stuttering is treated in early childhood. Early intervention is highly recommended but recovery is not guaranteed. Despite speech therapy treatment, stuttering can persist into adolescence and adulthood.

Being the parent of a child with a stutter can be challenging, but with kindness and patience you can make a huge difference in your child’s life and development.

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