This is a question many parents have pondered and wrestled with once they come to the full realization that their child is beginning to stutter. First, what you don’t need to do is panic. Do not, please do not tell your child to take a breath or slow down. 98% of my clients tell me that they despise these words. If they could make it go away by taking a breath or slowing down, they would most certainly do it. When you use those words, you are in effect, telling your child that they have control over what is happening to them and they should make it stop. If your child could make it stop, believe me, he would.
If your child is in the care of someone else throughout the day, this person or daycare personnel should be instructed in the information shared above.
So, if you shouldn’t use those comments, what can you do? I know you feel helpless and your child may begin to struggle and grab at his mouth and ask you why he can’t talk like everyone else. I encourage you to listen. Listen and maintain eye contact with your child as he talks to you. Plan some time every day for some quiet, uninterrupted time with your child where he is free to verbalize without being in a hurry for your attention or talking over siblings. Put the phone down, turn off the television, get on the floor and play or read with your child. Make no judgments as to how he talks to you.
Here are two tips for these interactions:
- When you respond to your child, pause a second or two before you speak. This will slow down the rate of your speech and thus may signal to your child that he can take his time as well. Notice you are not telling him to “slow down”.
- As you talk, stretch your words just a bit. Remember Mr. Rogers? He used slow and steady speech when he talked to children on his television program. Slowing your rate of speech makes it easier for your child to not feel time pressures to GET THE WORD OUT.
It is just fine to wait a few weeks to see if the stuttering episode will go away on its own. If it doesn’t, make an appointment with a speech pathologist experienced in stuttering disorders and have your child evaluated. The SLP can make recommendations and provide materials so that you feel supported as you navigate this path of speech that seems like it has been turned upside down. In many cases, this will be a developmental stage of speech for your child and will disappear. It can come and go for a year or so. This type of stuttering usually appears early, around 18 months to 2.5 years of age. If you have a family member who stutters, you will want to go ahead and see an SLP for an evaluation once you notice that your child has begun stuttering.
Stuttering is hard. It is hard for you and for your child. Seek support by reaching out to a speech pathologist who can provide therapy and support for you and your child.