Stuttering is a fairly common childhood communication difficulty, with up to 8% of children stuttering at some point between the age of one and five. Stuttering involves the involuntary disruption to the flow of a persons speech, and when it occurs in early childhood, it resolves without intervention in up to 75 percent of instances. If you would like to know more about stuttering, we have an in-depth post all about disfluency you can see here.
As a parent, it can be difficult to know how to interact with a child who stutters. Should you help them by finishing their sentences or give them time to finish? Should you talk to them about their stutter or ignore it completely? Below are some of our best tips for interacting with and responding to your child’s stutter:
- Always allow your child to finish what they are trying to say, without interrupting or repeating them
Interrupting a child or finishing their sentences during a moment of stuttering may negatively impact on how they feel about their stuttering, and also puts pressure on them to complete their sentences quickly. This can be counterproductive for children who stutter. Instead, make sure to give your child time to finish their turn in the conversation, and be patient through moments of stuttering.
- Use a slow pace and pause for at least 2 seconds after your child finishes speaking
By speaking in an unhurried manner and pausing frequently, you can set the pace of the conversation which your child will naturally follow. This slowed pace will help take any time pressure your child feels away, and give them the opportunity to have their turn within the conversation. Speaking in with a slower pace may also have the added benefit of reducing the number of stutters your child experiences.
Please note: Telling your child to slow down may help them to slow their speech for a brief moment, but is not effective for helping your child to slow their pace overall. Your example by slowing your own speech is much more effective.
- Avoid negative reactions to your child’s stutter
Unconscious reactions to a child’s stutter, like facial expressions, can send a negative message to your child about their stutter. Be mindful of how you react to your child’s moments of stuttering to avoid sending this message.
- Set aside time to chat with your child one-on-one
Carving out a few minutes regularly to talk and play without any outside distractions can be very important for your child. Reducing the background noise and activity will reduce the stress on them while talking, and your undivided attention will help them to build their confidence in talking. It is also a great chance to bond with your child and may be an opportunity for them to communicate how they feel about their stutter.
- Don’t be afraid to acknowledge your child’s stutter
While it is not recommended to regularly comment on your child’s stuttering or give advice to help them stop, it is recommended to have an open and positive dialogue with your child about their stutter. For example, for a child whose stutter has made it difficult to understand them, it is okay to say “that was a little bit bumpy, could you please tell me again?”.
If you are concerned about your child’s stuttering, or have any questions for our Speech Pathologists, please don’t hesitate to give us a call on 4333 7601, or via the contact form on this website.