Speech therapist colleagues of mine tell me that stuttering – sometimes called stammering – is not uncommon among children. It is often temporary (“developmental” rather than genetic or neurological), and it may require therapy, either short- or long-term.
What can parents do? My speech therapist friends have given me lots of tips to share with parents over the years. Here are some of them. They all deal with paying attention to how you talk with your child.
Slow your roll.
Speak unhurriedly, pausing often. Keep it natural, of course, but we don’t talk with children the same way we talk with adults.
Use helpful body language.
Make eye contact and facial expressions that show you’re listening.
Go easy on the questions.
Kids like expressing themselves more than answering a lot of questions. Let them talk while you listen.
Don’t interrupt, criticize, or finish sentences.
No one likes constant interruptions, and criticism can cut off conversation quickly. If you’re going to finish his sentences, why should he try?
Have regular conversation time.
This doesn’t have to be a big deal, just a routine time when you give your undivided attention. After school with snacks. Dinnertime. Bedtime. Kids want our attention. Be generous with it. Unplug.
Engage the whole family.
Everyone helps without teasing, criticizing, impatience, or isolating.
Success builds on success. Point out growth, praise goals he meets, even if it’s just a high-five, a secret signal, a thumbs- up, or a quick hug. Kids love to make us happy.
Get speech therapy early.
If you suspect a problem, take advantage of your school or day care’s services. The professionals can help your child and your family as you work together. They’ve done this before. They know what they’re doing.
Show your child he’s loved and accepted.
We’re all working on this together, and besides, it’s not going to affect our love for you.
In many cases, stuttering is temporary.
A parent’s first commandment. When you’re positive, kids will be positive. Eventually.