HELP! Is My Child Stuttering?

Many parents panic when they hear their child repeating words when trying to talk.  Is my child stuttering?  What should I do?  The likelihood is that what your child is doing is completely normal and typical for a child who is learning how to express him/herself in more complicated ways.

So if these behaviors are normal, what IS your child doing?  We talk about speech being “fluent,” which means the person’s speech flows easily and smoothly.  When speech is “dysfluent” there are breaks in the even smooth flow of speech.  These breaks can take the form of repetitions of sounds, words, parts of words, phrases or sentences.  They can also be prolongations of sounds that are held out for too long, frequent pauses between words or revisions of what was just said.  Children who are learning language, particularly during the early preschool years, are learning new words and sentence structures while trying to express themselves in longer more complex ways.  They are also in the process of developing the fine motor muscle coordination  that is necessary for speech production.  With so much to organize and coordinate it is understandable that children have interruptions in their speech during this time of development.  Fluency, like anything else, develops gradually.  It takes time and practice.  When your child is dysfluent what you are likely hearing are “normal developmental dysfluencies.”

If your child is experiencing “developmental dysfluencies” there are several things that you can do to help your child experience more fluency :

. try to speak with your child in an unhurried way, using slow relaxed speech and pausing after every few words

. try to ask your child fewer questions, especially those that are open-ended and are not about things in the present environment

.avoid command performances or “demand speech”-asking your child to tell or perform something to a guest or relative

. allow your child to finish what he/she wants to say without interruption and do not call attention to your child’s dysfluencies- focus on the content of the speech, WHAT he/she is saying, and not how it is being said

. although this seems helpful, do not tell your child to take a deep breath, slow down or think about what you want to say before you say it

. help everyone in the family take turns when speaking to avoid interruptions and maintain consistent discipline

. avoid over scheduling of activities and try to do activities with you child that will facilitate fluency, eg. singing, reading familiar stories, engaging in low-key pleasurable play and providing slow transitional down time between activities

Above all, convey to your child that you are listening and he/she is loved.  If after several months your child’s speech has not improved, it would be beneficial to contact a speech-language pathologist to discuss recommendations for a course of action.

 

 

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