There are a variety of speech difficulties that are common in children, especially between the ages of two and five. A stutter is one of these more common conditions, and causes children to repeat fragments of words every few words, sometimes several times before they’re able to say the word fully. For young children, the frustration of having difficulty communicating with others can be the primary complaint, but older children often become quite self-conscious if the stuttering continues. Children who stutter may avoid speaking as much as possible in an attempt to mask the issue, rush sentences, blurt out statements, and even speak in a voice that’s abnormally loud. The potential damage to kids’ self-esteem and the frustration that can accompany difficulty in communication can be detrimental to their emotional health, which is why it’s important for a stuttering child to receive treatment and attention at a relatively early age.
Will He Outgrow His Stutter?
Some children simply grow out of their stutter with a bit of speech therapy or special attention. Others, however, may continue to struggle with their stutter throughout adulthood. According to research published by the University of Iowa, girls are more likely to outgrow stuttering than their male counterparts. As a result, the ratio of males that chronically stutter to females is approximately three to one as children get older.
While there is evidence to support the idea that your child could outgrow her stutter without intervention, taking action to help her overcome her speech difficulties can boost those chances even further.
Stuttering Support at Home
Kids need to know that their home is their safe haven, especially if they’re regularly teased or bullied by classmates. Making sure that your child feels loved and valued can not only help to counteract some of his shame regarding his speech inarticulateness, but also create an environment conducive to supporting outside speech therapy and promote results from within the home.
Make sure that everyone in the household knows and abides by a “no interrupting” rule. When a stuttering child feels that he’ll have to rush his statements in order to be heard without interruption, the pressure and stress can exacerbate his speech difficulties. It can be very tempting to finish your child’s sentences for him or to respond to him before he’s completed a sentence in order to spare him the effort of struggling with his speech difficulties, but this can also be damaging to his self-esteem and impede his speech-therapy progress. It’s also important to strictly enforce rules regarding teasing in your home; if your child is frequently bullied by his peers and classmates due to his stutter and comes home to the same jokes and laughter at his expense from siblings or even parents, it only damages his self-esteem further. When your child is speaking, be conscious of your own reactions to him. Listen to what he’s saying and make an effort to understand him without showing signs of frustration or sadness. Furthermore, avoid calling attention to your child’s speech difficulties with phrases like “slow down,” or “speak clearly.” In addition to noticeably slowing his speech, this behavior also can make him even more self-conscious about the issue. Try to listen closely and be patient with your little one as he stutters.
When to Enlist the Help of a Professional
A child that still stutters at the age of five should have the assistance of medical professionals in order to help her overcome the situation, if possible. Also, a child that regularly repeats entire words and phrases, rather than single syllables, may require the assistance of a pediatrician or speech-language therapist. If a child’s stutter worsens, the muscles of his face and neck visibly tense when he speaks, he’s avoiding situations in which he may be required to speak, or stuttering is accompanied by facial tics or body movements, it may be time to enlist the help of a professional.
When your child is under the care of a speech-language therapist, make sure that you establish a dialogue with her in order to ensure that you’re working together to get your child all of the help he needs along the way. Remember that you are a team, and that helping your child overcome his stutter will be a team effort. Take the advice and suggestions of your child’s speech-language therapist to heart, and make an effort to ask what you can do at home to reinforce the help he’s receiving. Remember that the longer you wait after your child begins exhibiting stuttering symptoms before consulting a medical professional or speech-language therapist, the less likely he is to recover fully.
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