NEURODIVERSITY

A Parents’ Guide to Child Stuttering

Contents

  1. What is a stuttering disorder?
  2. What causes stuttering in children?
  3. What can parents do to help their children?
  4. Frequently asked questions about stuttering


Being the parent of a stuttering child can often be challenging and confusing 😕, especially if this is something you’ve never experienced before. However, just like other new experiences in life, you must learn as time goes on and support your child in every way possible. 👪

This article will tell you everything you need to know about stuttering in children and inform you exactly how you can help your child dealing with a stutter.

mum-speaking-with-daughter

What is a stuttering disorder?

 

Stuttering, also known as stammering, is a speech impairment in children that can last until adulthood. It is a prevalent speech disorder that affects more than 70 million people worldwide, including world leaders like Joe Biden. It is characterised by sudden pauses or interruptions in the form of drawn-out syllables and phrases in the natural flow of speech. 

According to the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK, stuttering in children is when:

  • Your child repeats sounds or syllables – for example, saying "mu-mu-mu-mummy."
  • Your child makes sounds longer – for example, "mmmmmmummy."
  • A word gets stuck or does not come out at all as your child struggles to speak.


What causes stuttering in children?



While there are many reasons for children developing a stutter, there are the main types of stuttering causes:

  • Developmental stuttering - This is the most prevalent type of development of stuttering in children in their developmental stages, when their speech and language skills are still progressing. It usually occurs when a child is between the ages of two and five years old. This can happen when a child's speech and language development is behind and they’re unable to communicate what they need or want to say.
  • Neurogenic stuttering - Stuttering caused by a stroke or a brain injury is known as neurogenic stuttering. It occurs when communication between the brain, nerves, and muscles involved in speech is disrupted.
  • Psychogenic stuttering - Psychogenic stuttering is a rare occurrence. It could happen as a result of emotional trauma. It can also occur in conjunction with issues with thinking or reasoning.


What can parents do to help their children?

 

Wondering how you help a child that suffers from a stuttering disorder? Here are some tips that can help you support your child:

  • Stuttering education - Learning more about childhood fluency issues such as stuttering will benefit both you and your child. By learning about stuttering, you can provide your children with accurate information and help them whenever required. 🤝
  • Establish clear communication and discuss stuttering - Stuttering isn't something to be ashamed of. You must openly talk about your child's stuttering with them and the rest of your family. A child who stutters requires all of the help they can get from their parents. Thus, you must support your child both physically and emotionally as it will comfort them that they are not alone in their struggles. However, some children are completely unaware that they have a stuttering problem. If that's the case, you might want to wait until they start asking you questions about their speech.
  • Regulate the rate of speed - Talk to your child in a relaxed manner, pausing periodically. Before you start speaking, wait a few seconds after your child has finished speaking. Your calm and relaxed voice will be more effective than any criticism or suggestion like "slow down" or "try it again slowly.”
  • Do not constantly correct your child - Do not make the mistake of thinking that stuttering is your child's fault. Remember that stuttering is caused by brain misconnections, not by a lack of knowledge. Thus, you must allow your children to openly express themselves, even if they make mistakes. The flow is the issue here. As a result, you should assist your child in achieving that flow in any way you can. And in order to do so, you must be willing to overlook their mistakes. 
  • Take small steps - Treatment for stuttering will take time as there is no magic cure. Determining what constitutes success will necessitate collaboration and a great deal of patience. After that, making a plan and sticking to it will be a long process. As the parent of a child who stutters, you will get extensive stuttering speech therapy. It may take longer than you imagine to learn and execute the activities with your child. Thus, you need to stay patient and take small steps towards improved speech with your child.
  • Seek professional stuttering help - For some parents, no matter how hard they try at home, nothing works.😔 However, you must not stress about this as many speech therapists specialise in assisting disfluent children.
  • Be accepting - Above all, let your child know that you accept and love them. Your own slower, more relaxed speaking, as well as the things you do to assist them in gaining confidence as a speaker, will certainly improve their fluency and reduce their stuttering. However, your support for them, whether they stutter or not, will be the most powerful force. 


Frequently asked questions about stuttering

 

Is stuttering in children normal?

Stuttering is a common occurrence in kids as they begin to talk. When a child's speech and language abilities aren't mature enough to keep up with what they want to say, they may stutter. However, it has been seen that the majority of children grow out of their developmental stuttering.

What is the difference between stuttering and stammering?

In American English, the medical ailment "disfluent speech" is usually referred to as "stuttering." The disorder is known as "stammering" in British English. Stuttering, stammering, and disfluent speech are all words that refer to the same set of symptoms.

What are the signs of stuttering?

Among the indications and symptoms of stuttering are:

  • Starting a word, phrase, or sentence can be difficult for your child.
  • Your child extends a word or a set of sounds within a phrase
  • They repeat a sound, a syllable, or a word.
  • They tend to take a brief pause for specific syllables or words or pauses inside a word.
  • Excessive strain, tightness, or movement of the face or upper body is used to produce a word.
  • Your child feels anxious about talking.

Their speech difficulties of stuttering may be accompanied by:

  • Rapid blinking of the eye
  • Lip tremors or jaw tremors
  • Jerks of the head
  • Clenched fists

Why is my kid stuttering all of a sudden?

Unfortunately, doctors are baffled as to what causes stuttering in children. It could be due to a mistake or delay in the signals sent by a child's brain to their mouth muscles when they want to talk. The child's inability to coordinate their mouth muscles while speaking due to this inaccuracy or delay might result in stuttering.

Stuttering is also a trait that runs through families. This shows that stuttering may be caused by genes passed down from parents to their children. In addition, it indicates that if other members of a child's family stutter or have stammered, the child is more likely to do so as well. However, a family history of stuttering does not guarantee that a child would stutter.

How do you stop stuttering?

Stuttering does not have an immediate cure. However, certain circumstances, such as stress, exhaustion, or pressure, might exacerbate stuttering. Thus, you might be able to help your child improve their speech flow by regulating these conditions.

Considering this, here are some tips that can help you reduce or stop your child's stuttering:

  • Encourage your child to practice speaking slowly - Stress and stuttering symptoms can be reduced by speaking slowly and deliberately. Thus, daily practice of speaking slowly can be beneficial. For instance, when your child is alone, encourage them to try reading aloud at a slow pace. They can then employ this pace when speaking to others once they've learned it. Another way to slow down speaking is to take a small pause between phrases and sentences.
  • Help them avoid trigger words - Children who stutter should not feel obligated to refrain from using certain terms if they do not want to. However, for some children, on the other hand, it might be best to avoid using certain words that cause them to stammer. In such a scenario, make a list of these words and find replacements that your child can use.
  • Teach them to be mindful - Mindfulness has been shown to help many children cope with worry and stress at a young age. As the effects of mindfulness and the techniques needed for stuttering control overlap, you can consider adding mindfulness meditation to your child's stuttering treatment program. 

Can you be cured of a stuttering disorder?

The short answer is no. Stuttering has no known cure, and like any other speech issue, it takes therapy and practice to treat or manage. While some people claim that their stutter "goes away," a lot of kids who stammer may continue to do so for the rest of their lives.

The long answer, on the other hand, is a little more complicated.

While there is no magic drug or cure for stuttering, helpful solutions are available to help your child manage their stutter. For a stuttering child, working with a speech-language therapist who specialises in stuttering can help them improve their communication skills and confidence. This can help them cure or reduce their stutter.

Is a stammer a disability in the UK?

In general, stammering is considered a disability if it significantly limits your children's ability to engage in typical day-to-day activities such as conversing or using the telephone.

In the UK, a stammer has generally been deemed a disability for the purposes of the Equality Act.

At what age do people start developing a stutter?

Anyone can stutter at any age. However, it is particularly common in children who are starting to speak. Normal verbal disfluency usually begins between the ages of 18 and 24 months and lasts until the age of five. So, if your child continues to stutter after the age of five, it would be best to seek professional help.

Even with a parenting guide, the most important thing you can do for a child who stutters is to be supportive and help them overcome their disability. We urge you to look for fun and interactive ways to help them improve their speaking ability.

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