What to do if your child starts to stutter?
A stutter (also known as “dysfluency”) is the involuntary repetition of sounds and words. It is an interruption in the flow of speech and can make it difficult to understand what a child is saying. There are different types of stutters, including:
- Repetitions: This is when a sound, part of a word, whole word or phrase is repeated (e.g. A a and I went to the shops, an an and I went to the shops, and and and I went to the shops, and I and I went to the shops)
- Prolongations: This is when a sound is stretched out (Aaaaaaaaaaand I went to the shops)
- Blocks: This is when a child tries to speak, and no sound comes out. It seems like the word is “stuck”
Stuttering in children most commonly starts between 2-5 years. Children are starting to combine words and make longer sentences at this age. Some children don’t start stuttering until later in childhood. Stuttering can start suddenly (e.g. a child might wake up one day with a stutter). It can also develop gradually over time. A child may stutter for a few weeks or several months, and the stuttering may come and go. Stuttering can have a genetic component so it’s important to know if there is any family history of stuttering.
When to Get Help
Current research tells us that the best time to treat a stutter is before your child starts school; so the earlier you seek support to treat a stutter the better. We recommend that you check with a speech pathologist as soon as possible if your child:
- Tries to avoid situations that require talking
- Changes a word for fear of stuttering
- Has facial or body movements along with the stuttering
- Repeats whole words and phrases often and consistently
- Repeats sounds and syllables more often
- Has speech that sounds very strained
- You notice increased facial tension or tightness in your child’s speech muscles
- You notice vocal tension that causes rising pitch or loudness
- You have other concerns about your child’s speech
Treatment for stuttering
The great news is that we have a highly evidence-based treatment for preschool-aged stuttering that is used around the world and was developed in Sydney. The Lidcombe Program is delivered through weekly sessions with a speech pathologist who coaches parents to do speech therapy for kids at home with the child each day. The program has been proven to be highly effective and safe. Treatment takes different amounts of time, depending on how severe a child’s stuttering is. Your speech pathologist will work with you on finding ways to make the Lidcombe Program part of your everyday life, so you get the best possible outcome for your child.
What can I do in the mean time at home?
- When you first notice your child stuttering, make a note of the date. We encourage you to monitor the stuttering closely over time, it can be quite common for it to ‘come and go’. Keeping notes is helpful to remember the pattern when you talk to a speech pathologist
- Don’t make your child to speak correctly at all times. Let talking be fun and enjoyable
- Avoid corrections such as “slow down,” “take your time,” or “take a deep breath.” Even though these comments are well intentioned, they can make your child feel more self-conscious
- Avoid interrupting your child, telling them to start over, or to think before speaking
- Focus on the meaning of what your child is saying, rather than how they are saying it
- Let your child speak for themself and to finish thoughts and sentences. Pause before responding to your child’s questions or comments
- Maintain eye contact with your child. Try not to look away or show signs of being upset
- Provide a calm atmosphere in the home. Try to slow down the pace of family life
- Speak slowly and clearly when talking to your child or others in their presence
Speak to a Speech Pathologist about whether your child would benefit from stuttering therapy.