Does your child repeat sounds or words over and over? It’s possible that they may be exhibiting developmental stuttering.
It is quite common for many children to go through periods of developmental dysfluency as they are learning to speak (ex. “Mommy, I-I-I…want to show you something”). A child’s language skills develop at such a rapid rate and often their motor system has a difficult time keeping up. These dysfluent speech patterns may begin as early as two years of age and most often decrease between the ages of three to five.
Certain factors, however, may indicate that your child is more at-risk for chronic stuttering. The following factors indicate that a speech and language evaluation may be warranted:
- Family history of stuttering
- Onset of stuttering occurs after the age of 3 ½
- Stuttering persists longer than 6-12 months
- The child has other speech-language concerns
There are many ways that you can support the development of your child’s fluency skills. The following seven tips for talking with your child.
1. Reduce the pace. Speak with your child in an unhurried way, pausing frequently. Wait a few seconds after your child finishes before you begin to speak. Your own easy relaxed speech will be far more effective than any advice such as “slow down” or “try it again slowly. For some children, it is also helpful to introduce a more relaxed pace of life for awhile.
2. Full listening. Try to increase those times that you give your child your undivided attention and are really listening. This does not mean dropping everything every time she speaks.
3. Asking questions. Asking questions is a normal part of life – but try to resist asking one after the other. Sometimes it is more helpful to comment on what your child has said and wait.
4. Turn taking. Help all members of the family take turns talking and listening. Children find it much easier to talk when there are fewer interruptions.
5. Building confidence. Use descriptive praise to build confidence. An example would be “I like the way you picked up your toys. You’re so helpful,” instead of “that’s great.” Praise strengths unrelated to talking as well such as athletic skills, being organized, independent, or careful.
6. Special times. Set aside a few minutes at a regular time each day when you can give your undivided attention to your child. This quiet calm time — no TV, iPad or phones — can be a confidence builder for young children. As little as five minutes a day can make a difference.
7. Normal rules apply. Discipline the child who stutters just as you do your other children and just as you would if he didn’t stutter.
Megan Sample has been working as an SLP since 2011. She loves working with children on a daily basis and hearing all of the cute and funny things they have to say! She focuses on articulation, apraxia, fluency and is trained in the PROMPT Technique. She works with newborns to age 3. She says one common misconception of her profession is that speech-language pathologists are known as “speech teachers” and only work in schools, but actually they work with a variety of populations in a variety of settings (clinics, hospitals, nursing homes, universities, etc.). A little known fact about Megan is she went zip lining over the rainforest in Costa Rica and is a J.CrewAHolic!