Nothing breaks a parent’s heart more than seeing your child sad, frustrated, and/or embarrassed. A person who stutters may experience all of these feelings while associating communication with negative emotions. Stuttering may affect a person’s social relationships, academic success, and/or career opportunity if not treated affectively. Learn more about the components of stuttering and how to best communicate with your child who stutters.
What is considered stuttering?
Stuttering is defined as a disruption of the forward flow of speech. The three core behaviors of stuttering are repetitions, prolongations, and blocks.
- • Repetitions of sounds, syllables, or one-syllable words. For example, “The b-b-b-baby is crying” (sound repetition), “I li-li-li-like this” (syllable repetition), “Can, can, can I have a cookie?” (one-syllable word repetition)
- • A prolongation is when a speech sound is held out but the mouth/tongue/lips have stopped moving. For example, “Caaaaaaaaaaaall me back”
- • Block is when the sound and air are both stopped. For example, “where…. are you going?”
When does stuttering occur?
Onset of developmental stuttering typically occurs just before age 3, with an average onset between ages 2 and 3.5 years old. Although rare, some children start stuttering up to 12 years of age.
What should you do if your child stutters?
When your child stutters it may be tempting to say, “slow down”, “relax”, “take a deep breath”, and “think before you speak” but these comments may increase frustration and tension. Instead of drawing attention to the stuttering, model good communication skills such as,
- • Maintain eye contact with your child
- • Allot enough response time for your child to finish their thought
- • Refrain from filling in words or sentences for your child
- • Use actions and gestures to acknowledge what your child is saying, not how they are saying it
- • Model wait time by allowing two seconds before you answer your child’s questions and insert more natural pauses in your own speech
Continue to encourage talking and socializing regardless of their stutter, by creating talking opportunities (e.g. asking an question or starting a conversation). Reassure your child that people care more about what they have to say than if they stutter while speaking. Do not draw attention to the stuttering during conversations and praise your child for sharing ideas and speaking out.
If you notice your child stuttering, contact Lumiere Children’s therapy for an evaluation with a speech-language pathologist (SLP). SLPs help people who stutter by decreasing the severity or impact of disfluency as it occurs. The goal of therapy is not to completely eliminate disruptions, but to minimize the impact on communication. Speech therapy can be very effective to help a person who stutters learn strategies to reduce the amount of disfluencies and feel confident in social situations.
Lumiere Therapy Team
“FAQ’s for Parents.” Stuttering Foundation: A Nonprofit Organization Helping Those Who Stutter, www.stutteringhelp.org/faqs-parents.
Guitar, Barry. “Nature of Stuttering .” Stuttering: an Integrated Approach to Its Nature and Treatment, 4th ed., Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2012.