When you see your child beginning to struggle to get words out, it can be concerning. This is especially true if your child, who previously had no difficulty speaking, has now suddenly begun stuttering for unknown reasons. Fortunately, approximately 75% of those children who show signs of this type of speech behavior will eventually recover. However, that does not minimize the level of concern that families experience once the behavior begins to emerge.
As a parent, how do you know when to accept stuttering as a normal part of the development and when to be more concerned?
Stuttering isn’t uncommon. For many children, it’s simply part of learning to use language and putting words together to form sentences. It may come and go, and it may last for a few weeks or for a couple of years. Most children (50%- 80%) outgrow it by puberty. But for some, stuttering can become a lifelong condition that causes problems in school and in functioning as an adult, including self-esteem issues and communicating with other people.
Signs and Symptoms of Stuttering
If you’ve noticed a change in your child’s speech, one of the biggest signs that it may be a stutter is your family history. If there is a person who stutters in the family, there is a significant likelihood that someone else in that family stutters, or used to stutter as a child.
In addition to the verbal symptoms mentioned above, there are secondary behaviors that typically accompany stuttering.
Common Secondary Behaviors to Stuttering
Eye blinking, Head nodding, Foot tapping, Body movements, Visible tension, Raised voice pitch, Avoidance of words and/or speaking situations.
Treatments for Stuttering in Children
The first way to address stuttering in children is through indirect intervention with the parents or caregivers. “For developmental stuttering, especially if the child is closer to 2 years of age, we may first attempt an indirect model where we train the parents to model slow speech.
Other strategies parents can employ, include focusing on what the child is saying instead of how they are saying it, maintaining eye contact, and giving them plenty of time to express themselves without pressuring them to rush or trying to finish their sentences.
Instead, the above strategies are meant to make them feel comfortable with speaking, even if they are stuttering. This could boost their confidence and help them work through it themselves, as opposed to telling them what to do differently.
A direct treatment model involves the SLP working with the child to teach them certain speech patterns. There are a few different strategies that SLPs will use, but they generally involve helping the child relax before speaking, regulate their breathing, and gradually progress from single-syllable words to longer words and finally to sentences.