Many parents have experienced a time when their child is excited to share with them something that has happened during their day and struggled to get the words out. Often they may repeat a word or the whole phrase, or open their mouth and appear to be stuck trying to get the words out. It is common for children between the ages of 2 and 4 to experience a brief period of stuttering. This happens as their cognitive and communication skills are developing rapidly during this time. They may experience on and off periods of stuttered or dysfluent speech which they often grow out of. The most recent studies have shown that approximately 80% of children spontaneously recover from their stuttering behavior without therapy.
Here are a few suggestions to assist children during this stage of early stuttering:
- Avoid interrupting your child mid sentence. Allow your child to finish his or her thoughts and try not to talk for or over your child.
- Provide your child with cues for them to slow down and think about what they want to say. Assure them that you are not in a rush and they can take as much time as they need. Slow down your rate of speech a bit and increase pauses to set the pace of a slower speech rate for them to copy.
- Make sure to use language that is developmentally appropriate for your child. This means using vocabulary that they can understand and sentence lengths and question types that they are able to comprehend.
- Simplify your speech. Use developmentally appropriate vocabulary and sentences to avoid situations where your child may get stuck. If you still want to cognitively challenge your child during this period, then it might be worthwhile posing the questions as topics you can discuss together rather than as a direct question. For example, instead of asking: “How can dad get to work?” you can ask: “Let’s try and think of some ways that dad can get to work together”. This reduces the pressure on the child to come up with an independent response immediately.
- Engage your child in activities that promote fluent speech such as reciting nursery rhymes, singing songs, and reading familiar books together.
When is stuttering not normal or likely to persist?
It is important to seek assistance from a qualified speech pathologist in certain cases of stuttering, as the chances of spontaneous recovery are less likely. These include:
- If stuttering persists for longer than a few months
- Children with a family history of stuttering
- If the child is becoming frustrated and unwilling to communicate due to the stutter
- If there are other speech or language concerns
- If the child has tension in speech or in the body when communicating. They may develop other behaviors, such as eye blinking or facial grimacing associated with stuttering.
- If more severe forms of stuttering are frequently occurring, such as blocking (no sound comes out when the mouth is open) or prolongations (a sound within a word is extended e.g. ppppppot)
If you are concerned, a speech pathologist experienced in dealing with stuttering can assess your child and inform you as to whether therapy is required.
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This article was written by our Speech Pathologist Ashleigh Fattah who is a Speech Pathology Australia member. If you have speech pathology related questions, make an appointment. We‘ll provide you with simple and effective therapy targeted to your concerns. Contact us today.