My child stutters
5 things to know and 5 'do nots' for you
Stuttering is a very common problem for children. Despite the fact that it is so common, we do not have a full understanding of what causes stuttering or why some children struggle more than others. Here are 5 things we do know.
1. Stuttering usually occurs between the ages of 2 and 5 years. Occasionally, the first signs will occur between 18 and 24 months as children’s vocabularies increase rapidly.
2. Despite the fact that it can cause a lot of anxiety and frustration for parents, most stuttering will go away on its own and is considered normal.
3. Often the biggest problem associated with stuttering is the anxiety felt by the child due to pressure from parents and classmates.
4. If stuttering persists after age 5, especially if it is causing stress, talk with your doctor and consider seeing a speech therapist.
5. Consider an earlier referral to speech therapy if your child is avoiding talking in social situations, the stuttering is worsening over time, there are associated facial or body movements or you have other concerns about their speech.
Now that you know what is normal regarding stuttering and when you should be more concerned, let’s talk about what you can do to help your child during this stressful period. Despite the fact that stuttering can be very stressful for children as they get older, initially the parents suffer more anxiety regarding stuttering. Here are 5 “Do nots” that you can use to help your child.
1. Do not force your child to repeat phrases where they have stuttered. Keep conversations relaxed. If you understand, that’s good enough.
2. Do not say things like “slow down” or “think before you speak.” These comments only heighten anxiety and tend to make the stuttering worse.
3. Do not finish your child’s sentences for them. Wait patiently for them to complete their thoughts without showing facial expressions of frustration or other negative emotions.
4. Do not have distractions during meals like TV, etc. Use this time as practice time for everyone to talk including the child who is stuttering.
5. Do not force your child to speak in situations that cause anxiety. They generally are not kids who would be comfortable reading out loud or saying the family prayer. If they want to do these things, by all means encourage them, but forcing them is not helpful.
Justin Smith, M.D., is a Cook Children's pediatrician in Lewisville . He attended University of Texas, Southwestern Medical School and did his pediatric training at Baylor College of Medicine. He joined Cook Children's after practicing in his hometown of Abilene for four years. He has a particular interest in development, behavior and care for children struggling with obesity. In his spare time, he enjoys playing with his 3 young children, exercising, reading and writing about parenting and pediatric health issues.