You have a child who may be exhibiting signs of stuttering. New and important developments in education and therapy are happening all the time. In the meanwhile, there is so much that you, your child, and others in your child’s life can do. The NSA’s goal is to empower you and your child with knowledge, understanding and hope that will help to increase your child’s chances of successful speech development. Here are 10 things you can do now to help your child:
1. Learn about stuttering.
Getting the facts about stuttering can help you make good decisions for your child. The NSA has partnered with leading stuttering specialists to provide the most up-to-date information about stuttering research and treatment. The more you know, the more you can help.
2. Seek the advice and guidance of a stuttering specialist.
If you are worried about your child’s speech, contact a speech-language pathologist (SLP) who specializes in the treatment of childhood stuttering. Do not wait to see if your child will simply “outgrow” stuttering. The sooner you get an evaluation, the sooner you can help your child. Stuttering specialists are speech-language pathologists who have been recognized by the American Board of Fluency and Fluency Disorders (ABFFD) as having achieved advanced training and clinical skill for working with people who stutter and their families. A list of Board-Certified Specialists in Fluency Disorders (BCS-F) can be found at www.stutteringspecialists.org.
3. Respond to your child’s stuttering in an open, supportive way.
Many parents have been told not to draw attention to stutterinng, fearing this will make it worse. Today, we know this is not true- talking about stuttering will not make your child stutter more. In fact, it can even help! View stuttering just like any other difficulty your child may have when learning a complex skill (like learning to skip or ride a bicycle) and treat stuttering in the same positive, patient, and supportive manner.
4. Give yourself a break.
Despite what you may have heard, parents do NOT cause stuttering. In fact, by learning more about stuttering now, you are taking positive steps to help your child improve his speech and communication. Your proactive response is supporting your child’s success.
5. Listen to your child.
Listen to the message your child is trying to communicate, not the stuttering. You can show your child that you are listening by not finishing sentences, filling in words, or giving simplistic advice such as “just relax,” “slow down,” or “take a deep breath.” Encourage your child’s development of healthy communication skills by showing him that what he is saying is more important than how he is saying it. Reflect what you have heard back to him so he knows that he is understood.
6. Reduce demands.
As your child develops more advanced speech and language skills, she will experience many demands on her speaking abilities. Reducing the amount of “demand” speech (“tell grandma what you did today”) can decrease the pressures she experiences and help her communicate successfully, even when she is stuttering.
7. Model Good Communication.
You provide an important role model for your child’s communication abilities. You can use a communication style that is rushed, hurried, or intense – or, you can use an easier, smoother, more relaxed way of talking. Using pauses can help your child learn to speak in a relaxed, unhurried manner. When children experience these easier interactions, they feel less pressure to “keep up.” This can help to reduce the tension they feel in their speech.
8. Decrease Time Pressures.
Time pressure is feeling that we have to act or speak quickly. Too much time pressure makes it harder to do the things we want to do. You can reduce time pressure for your child by reducing interuptions and encouraging good turn-taking in your home environment. Allowing pauses and silence during conversation will help you create an easier, more supportive environment for your child.
9. Be patient and learn in small steps.
Remember that these strategies take time to learn. Do not feel discouraged if you find them hard at first. You can receive specific training about how to make these changes as you partner with a stuttering specialist.
10. Get Connected.
The National Stuttering Association (NSA) is dedicated to providing hope, empowerment, and support for you and your child. Through the NSA, you will become part of a community of people who understand stuttering and how to help people who stutter. The greatest gift you can give yourself and your child is the knowledge that you are not alone in dealing with stuttering!
Now Available From the NSA:
Young Children Who Stutter: Information and Support for Parents – 5 Steps To Help Your Child. This resource describes the early signs of stuttering, provides an overview of what to expect in therapy, and explains how parents can help their child at home. It also provides the support parent need to be helpful partners in teh therapy process and emphasizes teh importance of early interention and support for young children who stutter. For more information, click here.