Speech and language pathologists are experts when it comes to helping children overcome speech disfluencies such as stuttering. Two questions speech therapists often hear from parents are “How can I support my child and improve their odds of outgrowing their stutter?” and “How do you talk to a child who stutters?” While it is true that stuttering is not caused by how parents interact with and speak to their children, there are many strategies that parents can adopt that will help their children improve the fluency of their speech. Incorporating the following techniques, while also working with an experienced speech and language pathologist, can go a long way towards helping your child overcome their stuttering.
If your child is consistently stuttering, or you are concerned about other areas of their speech and language development, don’t wait to get started with a speech therapist. At Great Speech, getting started is as simple as scheduling your free introductory call today!
Tips for Parents
Here are some of our top tips for any parent to support and encourage their child as they work to overcome a stutter:
Use Relaxed and Simple Speech – It is important to always speak to your child in a relaxed, calm, and unhurried manner. This in turn can calm your child and removes any pressure for them to “keep up” with your pace of speech. It also clearly demonstrates to the child the way we want them to speak.
Be Consistent – Generally speaking, children thrive when given clear routines and expectations. This is especially true for children who stutter. It is common to see an increase in stuttering instances when the child is faced with an unexpected situation and the child is unprepared to use language to navigate that situation. It is important to try to stay as consistent as possible, especially during a structured time, such as getting ready for the day in the morning.
Reduce Pressure during Transitions – Reducing pressure and avoiding rushing your child is vitally important when trying to reduce stuttering instances. Give ample warning for all upcoming transitions, such as setting a 5-minute timer to indicate when it is time for your child to get their shoes on, for example.
Limit Asking Questions – As a parent of a child who stutters, it is important to refrain from asking too many questions. When a child is asked a question, there is an expectation of a certain response from them. This in turn creates an instant demand for them to speak, which can lead to stuttering. Instead, phrase your question as a comment and allow the child to respond in their own time. For example, instead of asking “What is your favorite color?” You can say “I see you’re using the blue marker, I bet that is your favorite color!” This provides the child an opportunity to either confirm or refute your statement in their own time without pressuring them to respond immediately. If you must ask your child a question, try yes or no questions as opposed to ones that require an open-ended response.
It is important to remember that these strategies are meant to support your child at home, but should be used in combination with regular speech therapy. Get started with our virtual speech therapy services by scheduling your free introductory call today!
Never Demand Speech – Just as in the case of asking questions, it is important to never demand or try to force your child to say a specific word or phrase. This includes demanding that your child say please or thank you, as it puts the child on the spot and requires specific words to be produced, which can lead to more instances of stuttering. I some cases, the use of physical responses such as direct eye contact, a smile or slight nod can be just as helpful.l
Avoid Giving Advice – As a parent of a child who stutters, you may think that gentle reminders and advice such as “slow down” or “think before you speak” are helpful. In actuality, these phrases bring attention to their speech disfluency and can make your child more self-conscious, and feel that you don’t approve of their stutter. This added tension and pressure can lead to more stuttering. Instead, listen carefully to your child and rephrase or repeat the stuttered sentence or phrase.
Watch Your Language – Be highly aware of the language you use around your child who stutters, and the power of suggestion and prediction should not be underestimated. Avoid predicting future stuttering instances such as “ I bet you’ll stutter when you do your presentation at school” as you can plant seeds of uncertainty and fear in the child. It is important that your child never feels criticized or that you don’t approve of their stuttering. It is often appropriate, however, to praise and encourage your child when they effectively produce clear and fluent speech.
Use Supportive Non-Verbal Communication – Always remember that communication is approximately 90% nonverbal, and your gestures, body language, and facial expressions can convey so much to your child. Children are able to interpret the tone of voice and facial expressions from a very young age, so be sure to model a patient, relaxed, and supportive facial expression when your child speaks, even if they stutter.
Get Everyone on Board – Ensure that all individuals who will be listening to and interacting with your child are consistently using the above methods. This can include parents, other caregivers, siblings, teachers, school staff, grandparents, and others. Sadly even one person using punitive or critical language with your child can undermine your efforts and increase your child’s stuttering.
Adopt a Mantra – “My child is the strongest speaker in the world!” This mantra should be adopted by any parent of a child who stutters and should always be in the back of your mind, especially when listening to them speak. This mantra should also always be reflected in the language and non-verbal communication you use with your child.
Speech Therapy for Children who Stutter
While the above techniques are important to help any child overcome a stutter, they often will not be enough on their own. Time with an experienced and qualified speech and language pathologist is the best resource for any child who is struggling to produce clear and fluent speech. Don’t wait to seek help for your child as early intervention offers the best outcome. Get your child started on the path to clearer speech by scheduling your free introductory call today!