As children learn to speak they may naturally have some difficulty. Usually these problems are transient and part of your child's normal development. However, sometimes children will develop a more serious problem such as true stuttering.
Normal Speech Problems
True stuttering (stammering) occurs in only 1% of children. Stuttering is 4 times more likely in boys than in girls. In most cases, true stuttering is an inherited problem. It can also occur when a child with normal dysfluency or normal dysarthria is pressured to improve and becomes sensitive about the problem. The child may begin to anticipate speaking poorly and struggle to correct it. The child becomes tense when he speaks, and the more he attempts to control his speech, the worse it becomes. True stuttering will become worse and persist into adulthood, without treatment.
Some characteristics of true stuttering include:
The following recommendations should prevent dysfluency or dysarthria from developing into stuttering.
Sit down and talk with your child at least once a day. Keep the subject matter pleasant and enjoyable. Avoid asking for verbal performance or reciting. Keep speaking time low-key and fun.
Mild stuttering that's not causing your child any discomfort should be ignored. When your child is having trouble speaking, however, say something reassuring such as "Don't worry, I can understand you." If your child asks you about his stuttering, reassure him that, "Your speech will get easier and someday the stuttering will be gone."
Avoid expressing any disapproval, such as by saying, "Stop that stuttering" or "Think before you speak." Remember that this is your child's normal speech for his age and is not controllable. Do not try to improve your child's grammar or pronunciation. Also avoid praise for good speech because it implies that your child's previous speech wasn't up to standard.
Give your child ample time to finish what he is saying. Don't complete sentences for him. Don't allow siblings to interrupt one another.
If possible, guess at the message. Listen very closely when your child is speaking. Only if you don't understand a comment that appears to be important should you ask your child to restate it.
This just makes the child more self-conscious about his speech.
Try to convey to your child that you have plenty of time and are not in a hurry. Model a slow relaxed rate of speech. A rushed type of speech is a temporary phase that can't be changed by orders from the parent.
Labels tend to become self-fulfilling prophecies. Don't discuss your child's speech problems in his presence.
Share these guidelines with babysitters, teachers, relatives, neighbors, and visitors. Don't allow siblings to tease or imitate your child's stuttering.
Try to increase the hours of fun and play your child has each day. Try to slow down the pace of your family life. If there are any areas in which you have been applying strict discipline, back off.
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