HELP! MY CHILD IS STUTTERING!
Did you know that most children who stutter in preschool will out grow it? But, what if you are unsure? What if you are worried that your child's stuttering will persist beyond childhood? If you have any question about your child's speech, a certified speech language pathologist (SLP) can evaluate your child's speech and determine if your child is demonstrating stuttering-like disfluencies (SLD) or non-stuttering like disfluencies (NSLD) and at what percentage. As part of the speech evaluation, the SLP will collect various speech samples in different contexts. For example, the SLP may administer and record a picture naming task, a modeled sentence task, a structured conversation task and a storytelling task. Following this, the SLP will be able to quantify your child's stuttering severity and the likely hood of persistent stuttering. In addition, the SLP will also have the parent complete a questionnaire. The responses provided will help the speech language pathologist determine if there are certain risk factors present that will increase your child's chance of persistent stuttering.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF PERSISTENT STUTTERING?
When a child has more SLD's versus NSLD's then the risk for persistent stuttering is increases. SLD's are a hallmark feature of stuttering. SLD's are:
Repetitions (sound/syllable): the repeating of a single speech sound, cluster, or entire syllable. ("I want wa-water.")
Repetitions (monosyllabic, Whole Word): the repeating of an entire one-syllable word, for example, "I want an ice ice ice cream cone."
Prolongation (audible): the stretching of a sound, for example, "I lllllllove cars."
Prolongation (inaudible): the complete stopping of a sound during speech, for example, "I want a p____iece of cake please."
Most typical speakers will use what we call, non-stuttering like disfluencies in their speech. The following are NSLD's:
Interjections: small filler words like, "um", "like", "you know" inserted between words in sentences for example, "I like, um, that color too."
Revisions: the modification of a sentence on the fly, for example, "I want my hat-no, my jacket, please."
Phrase Repetitions: the repeating of two or more words, for example, "I want-I want to go too."
Some other risk factors for persistent stuttering are:
Family history of stuttering
*Poorer phonological/articulation abilities- Hedge's g: -.54
Higher percentage of stuttering like disfluencies -Hedge's g: .53
*Poorer receptive language skills -Hedge's g: -.46
*Poorer expressive language skills - Hedge's g: -.43
*these speech and language skills are not necessarily below average skills, they are just not as strong in children who stutter
Other risk factors to consider:
Greater than one year since time of onset
Late stuttering onset (after 3.5 years old)
A sensitive or inhibited temperament
Excessive physical tension in the body
Avoiding eye contact
Covering the mouth
Refusing to speak
Grimacing of the face of lips
Audible or exaggerated breathing
Substituting a different word with a problem word
WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP MY CHILD WHO IS STUTTERING
Here are some things you can do to help your child when he or she stutters.
Pay attention to the message, rather than the way the message is being delivered. Try to listen through the stuttering calmly, then respond to the message.
Refrain from saying, "relax," or "take a deep breath," or "slow down," or "think about what you are saying." Although these types of comments are well intended, they do not help a person who stutters.
Model slow speech by pausing in between sentences and slowing your rate down to 75% speed. Your child will pick up on this and mimic you naturally.
Don't jump in and finish your child's thoughts or sentences for them.
Give your child the time they need to talk.
Maintain a calm appearance in your tone, body language and expression. Calm parents=calm kids!
Talk about stuttering so that your child will not feel ashamed or embarrassed by it.
Have a consistent schedule and routine to reduce tension and pressure.
Don't ask a ton of questions, instead, narrate events, activities, routines and play time. Asking too many questions can create a pressure filled environment.
Always celebrate what your child says, no matter how they say it.
It is important to know that it is not your fault that your child stutters! People who stutter were born with a genetic predisposition to stutter. You are the most important person in your child's life, so how you respond and communicate with them has real meaning.