Children learn language at a very fast pace. In just a few short years, they go from crying to have their needs met, to speaking in complete sentences! With this, parents may hear their child start to stutter or stammer, which is a repetition or prolongation of a sound, word or phrase.
Many children go through a typical, developmentally appropriate stage of stuttering (stammering) between the ages of 2-5 years. This often coincides with a burst of language development, especially when children are learning to put words into sentences.
There is no known cause for stuttering, and there is no one thing a parent can do that would cause their child to stutter.
Most children will spontaneously recover on their own, though their stuttering may last weeks or even months, and may even wax and wane. It can be difficult for parents to hear their child starting to stutter, but a call to your local speech and language therapist isn’t always necessary.
What can I do?
If your child is stuttering, there are some things you can do at home to support your child:
- While your child is stuttering, wait patiently and allow them to finish their sentence. Do not finish their sentence for them or tell them to ‘spit it out.’
- Slightly decrease your rate of speech, or how fast you talk. Many children who stutter speak very quickly and modelling a slower pace can help them to learn to slow themselves down.
- When your child stutters, respond to WHAT he said, not HOW he said it.
- When your child stutters, repeat back to them what they said, modelling slow and easy/relaxed speech.
- When you are speaking with your child, make sure they know you are listening by getting onto their level and giving them eye contact.
- Make a rule in your household that each person gets their time to speak without being interrupted. In busy households, it’s very easy to speak over each other. The child who stutters needs to finish what they are saying without being interrupted.
- Practice speaking ‘easy’ with your child, using a more relaxed voice. Reading books together can be a great place to practice. It also gives you some one to one time with your child!
- The Colorado Centre for Stuttering Therapy has created a helpful acronym, R.E.S.T. to help remind parents of how to speak and respond /interact with their child who stutters:
- R- Repeat back (what the child said)
- E- Eye contact
- S- Slow, easy speech
- T- Turn taking
- You can also download The Stuttering Foundation’s 7 Tips for Talking with Your Child which is a handy printable for posting on your fridge or wall.
- You can also take the CATTS ‘How to help a child who is stuttering course‘ on our online training system. (This is a short briefing, and is very useful to show to relatives/ childminders/ grandparents who the child may be in regular contact with, so you can build a supportive, understanding network around him).
Of course, when it doubt, it is always better to refer your child for a speech and language therapy assessment if you are concerned, as early intervention is key to managing and treating many childhood disorders.
So when is it time to ring the therapist?
If your child has been stuttering for a few months and you are unsure if the stuttering is becoming a problem, there are some things you can look out for which may indicate that your child will need the support of a speech and language therapist. Use our quick screener below to check for yourself.
Book: If Your Child Stutters: A Guide for Parents (Stuttering Foundation of America www.stutteringhelp.org)
‘How to help a child who is stuttering’
If you have any questions about any of the above, please don’t hesitate to contact us.