What is Stuttering?
Stuttering is a speech disorder which affects the fluency or flow of speech. Stuttered speech is characterised by repeated movements and fixed postures of the speech mechanism. It usually begins during early childhood, often around the time of rapid language development between 2 ½ and 4 years of age. In some cases it lasts into adulthood.
What does stuttering look and sound like?
The main types of stuttering usually seen in young children are:
Sounds (e.g. c-c-can I have a drink?)
Syllables (e.g. Mu-mu-mu-mummy can I have a drink?)
Words (e.g. can-can-can-can I have a drink?)
Phrases (e.g. Can I-can I- can I have a drink?)
This is the lengthening of sounds in words (e.g. ‘ssssssssso’)
This is when there is a short period of silence, the mouth is ready to say a sound,
sometimes for several seconds, with little or no sound produced.
Superfluous/ secondary behaviours-
Verbal- grunts, filler words (e.g. umm, like), pauses
Non-verbal – grimacing, blinking, body movements, changes in breathing
What causes stuttering?
The exact cause remains unknown but you as their parent did not cause it.
It has been agreed that stuttering is a physical disturbance in the neural processing system (brain activity) which controls speech production. In young children it is not caused by psychological factors however later on it can be exacerbated by stress and anxiety. A genetic link has been found, as children with a family history of stuttering are more likely to stutter themselves.
How is stuttering treated?
Stuttering is most commonly treated with behavioural approaches. Early intervention from a speech pathologist is recommended for children who stutter. The most effective stuttering treatment for children under six years is called the Lidcombe Program. This is a worldwide treatment program developed at the University of Sydney’s Australian Stuttering Research Centre.
The Lidcombe program is administered by a parent or carer in the child’s everyday environment. Parents will learn how to do the treatment from their speech pathologist during weekly visits. The speech pathologist demonstrates the main features of the program. The parent is then observed delivering the treatment and the therapist provides feedback. Parent training is essential, and it is the speech pathologist’s responsibility to ensure that the treatment is done appropriately and is a positive experience for the child and the family.
See their website for more information on the Lidcombe Program
What should everyone else do?
Your child’s therapy program will be guided by your therapist and will be between the therapist and the trained parents. But, you might also have family, friends and teachers wanting to help and support your child with their stutter. Here are some pointers for everyone else;
Set aside time to chat one-on-one– Setting aside a few minutes regularly to talk and play without any outside distractions can be very important to a 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.
Avoid telling them to slow down, take a deep breath or start again – This usually doesn’t work and can be frustrating.
Establish clear turn taking in conversational exchanges – When it is the child’s turn to speak, give them time to finish what they are saying without interrupting. Ask siblings to respect turn taking in conversation to reduce the ‘competition’ to talk in busy households.
Use good eye contact – This shows that you are interested and really listening. Getting down to their physical eye level face to face is a great way to show you are actively listening.
Pay attention to the message rather than the delivery – Try to listen to what the child is trying to express and attend to that, rather than make any comments about the way they are saying it.
Follow their lead if possible – Play what they want to play and talk about what they want to talk about. Not only is this style of interaction excellent for developing meaningful conversational language skills, but it also lets the child feel important, listened to and in control.
Speak more slowly and calmly yourself – This sets a relaxed tone for your conversation, helps them feel less rushed and they are likely to slow down themselves without being directed to.
Language – During non-fluent times, use the same kind of sentences that the child does – keep them short and simple.
What should I do right now?
Contact us to book in an assessment so we can determine the nature and extent of the stutter together. Whilst it is true that children can recover without intervention, we are unable to predict which children it will become a long term and even lifelong issue for. For that reason, seek an assessment quickly with a speech pathologist trained in the treatment of stuttering especially if stuttering persists beyond a few months. Come in and meet one of our friendly speech pathologists today.