When your Child Stutters

Many parents become concerned about stuttering when their children are between 2 and 5 years old. Children will often repeat syllables or use speech filters like “um”, “er” or “uh”. The good news is that this is often just a sign of learning and the speech problem will disappear by itself.  Most children outgrow this phenomenon by the time they turn 5 years old. For the small percentage of people who do not outgrow it, stuttering becomes a communication handicap that they will have to learn to manage and overcome.

Stuttering or also known as stammering, is a speech disorder where sounds, syllables or words get repeated or prolonged, which in turn have an impact on the fluency of speech. Children who stutter often experience blocks which are periods of silence whilst he is struggling to make a sound.  During blocks children seem to be trying to force the word out.  This might be with an open mouth or his lips squeezed together.

Examples of prolongations are:

  • Aaaaaaaaaask our teacher.
  • Pu…………….put the pencil back.
  • This is y………….yours.
  • Give it to mmmmmmm-me.

Examples of repetitions are:

  • B-b-b-b-b-b-but not now.
  • Bu-bu-bu-bu-but not now.
  • But-but-but-but not now.
  • But not – but not – but not – but not now.

In mild cases of stuttering the child repeats sounds more than twice, eg. “li-li-li-li-like” with visible tension in the facial muscles.  Their pitch tends to rise with repetition and sometimes they can experience blocks.  Disfluencies in their speech is regular.

In severe cases of stuttering more than 10% of their speech is affected by stuttering.  Great effort and tension is visible in effort to vocally communicate.  These children avoid stuttering by using other words instead of the ones giving them problems, they experience complete blocks, have many repetitions and prolongations.

What parents can do:

  • Do not put pressure on your child to speak correctly at all times, it will only lead to increased levels of anxiety and add to the stuttering.
  • Use meal times as a conversation time with your child where there are no distractions, for instance the TV.
  • Avoid trying to correct your child of finish a word for him, it will only lead to an increase in self consciousness.
  • Do not interrupt your child or ask him to start over.
  • A calm atmosphere in the house will help to address anxiety and stress that can contribute to stuttering.
  • Do not tell your child to think before speaking.
  • Always speak slowly and clearly to your child.
  • Maintain natural eye contact, even when your child is struggling to verbalize a word.
  • Allow your child the opportunity to speak for himself and finish his own sentences.

Aligned Thinking