When your child stammers

  • PublishedMarch 18, 2014

Stuttering, which is also known as stammering, is a speech disorder that occurs when normal speech is interrupted by the repetition or extension of certain sounds or words. Stammering can range in frequency and intensity from mild to severe and stress can make it worse.

Every child who is learning to talk will stammer at one point or another but in most cases, majority of children outgrow stammering as they learn how to join words and construct sentences. For instance, pre-school age children stammer since they are learning to talk, and although many parents worry about it, most of these children outgrow the stuttering and have normal speech, as they get older. This normal stage of speech development is called psuedostuttering or normal dysfluency. However, speech therapy maybe necessary if the stammering persists after the age of five years.

Causes of stammering…

Although there isn’t any established cause of stammering, it is believed that speech disorder could be as a result of genetic composition. Majority of children who stammer are from families where there is a person who stammers.

Your child could also be suffering from developmental stammering which happens between the age of 18 months to about two years. This is the period when children are learning how to sharpen their speech and language. This form of stammering is only temporary.

Another cause of stammering is neurological where children who stammer process language differently than those without any speech disorder. This maybe due to lack of coordination between the brain, the speech nerves and muscles signals.

Speech therapy classes…

If your child began stammering before they were three and half years, chances are they will outgrow it. However, if he stammers for more than six months, he may not outgrow it and you will need to enroll him in a speech therapy class. Speech therapy boosts your child’s confidence as he learns to manage stammering and improve his speaking skills. It is worth noting that more boys than girls are affected by stammering.

Once you realise that your child has a prolonged speech problem, identify a qualified speech specialist who will conduct the necessary tests and recommend the best way to help your child. In most cases, treatment largely depends on the extent of stammering, and is usually aimed at teaching the child skills, strategies and behaviours that help oral communication.

This involves practicing smooth, fluent speech at a very slow speed by using short sentences and phrases. In a speech therapy class, the child will also be taught how to control and regulate their breathing, so that as he learns to string words and construct sentences, he instinctively knows when to pause.

Helping your child…

As a parent you can also help your child reduce stammering by doing the following:

Create time for your child everyday. Ensure that you spend quality time teaching him simple sentences. You must practice patience by talking to your child slowly and clearly and also giving him the time he needs to finish what he is trying to say. In addition, encourage the other adults in your child’s life to do the same.

Slow down your speech so that it can be easier for your child to follow what you are saying. This will help him feel less rushed as you pay attention when he is communicating with you. You should not show any impatience or irritation when your child is talking to you.

Minimise questions and interruptions when your child is speaking and instead use short and simple sentences, which are easy to understand. Concentrate on what he is saying rather than how it is being said. Even if you know what he intends to say, do not complete the sentences for him, as this will only make him feel inadequate.

Discuss your child’s situation with other people he interacts with, such as his teachers, encouraging them not to exert undue pressure on him.

Remember that stammering does not reflect a person’s level of intelligence or personality, and your child should be encouraged to pursue any career path he wishes.

Published on February 2013

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