“Oh, you should just speak slowly”, “maybe it’s the anxiety getting to you” and hundreds of similar unwanted comments follow whenever someone with a stammer tries to speak.
Modern sciences have found multiple mutations on several chromosomes that correspond to stuttering. These mutations can be heritable, although they are more frequently expressed in males than females. While more than 70 million people across the world stutter, around 60% of them have family members who stutter as well.
It is a speech disorder that responds to speech therapy, regular speech exercises and practices. Stuttering is most commonly noted in children between the ages of 2.5 years and 3 years, when they are acquiring their language skills at an incredible speed. Such stuttering is known as developmental stuttering, and occasionally, only in children, it disappears on its own within a few months.
How will you know if your child is stuttering?
Stuttering is quite common. According to experts, it is a part of the learning process many children use to learn a new language or acquire a new and expansive vocabulary at a rapid pace. Children outgrow their stammering on their own in many cases, but it might become a lifelong condition for some.
Developmental stuttering has a few signs that are hard to miss. These symptoms of stuttering include –
- Difficulty in starting a word, sentence or phrase
- Repetition of a syllable, an entire word or a particular sound
- Breaking of words or undue pausing, and missing syllables
- Prolongation of parts of words or entire words
- Adding sounds like “um” or “uh” in the beginning of the next word
Along with these signs, you can also notice the following –
- Twitching or trembling of the lips and/or jaw
- Tightening of facial muscles
- Clenching fists
- Rapid and abrupt blinking
- Jerking of the head
If a child experiences physical duress while trying to get the words out, it may signify a serious stammering problem. You may also notice their voice changing pitch and rising with each repetition.
These are the signs that you need to take pro-active measures to help ease your child’s stuttering instead of waiting for it to ride itself out.
What should you do if you notice your child stuttering?
You should seek the help of a speech-language therapist. It might sound intimidating, but speech therapy for children can consist of quite a few simple stammering exercises at home moderated by their parents.
In many cases, the SPL talks to the parents and other members of the family making it an indirect approach. The treatment aims at reducing the family’s concern and altering their family-child interactions.
At Stamurai, we are always here, to help you understand speech therapy and its implications. Here are some of the most common activities your SLP might ask you to do with your child –
- A slower rate of speech with pauses – The therapist typically begins by helping the parents and other family members speak more slowly and increase their pausing time. it is a must for family members to reduce their rate of speaking to a slower and smoother soothing style. The parents’ speech should sound calm and relaxed with enough pauses between enunciated words and gaps between the two sentences. Models of slower speech with adequate pauses throughout has been shown to reduce stuttering in young children.
- Increasing listening time – Children who stutter have trouble expressing themselves. Having a family member lend a listening ear can make a significant difference in the child’s attitude towards his or her own speech. It is important that you dedicated some “listening time” each day for your child. It can be after playschool when he or she has a lot to share about their experiences, or right before the child heads out for their playtime. Quality listening time lets your child know that you “are there” for him or her although you should intentionally make sure not to make suggestions or give instructions, especially on their speech during this time!
- A few changes in the family routine – Attentive playtime with the child can show significant improvement in a child’s speech. For example, mirroring a child’s expression during the playtime with vocal cues, like sounds of disappointment when the child’s face shows the same emotions can build confidence in the child, in the long run. Your child needs to let your child lead you during the interactive playtime which should also be unstructured, spontaneous and enjoyable for your child.
- Ask fewer questions – Children fare better when parents and family members allow them to talk spontaneously. Do not ask your child who stutters too many questions. Research on child psychology shows that asking too many questions can make your child feel stressed or anxious, which can worsen his or her stuttering. So let them share their emotions, knowledge and experiences spontaneously. Learning comes naturally to children and there’s little reason to believe that no asking enough questions will set his or her learning process back.
- The AEIOU therapy – Saying the vowels clearly and loudly is a stuttering therapy technique that every parent must practice while talking to the child. This way the child will follow the same technique of pronouncing their vowels loudly and clearly. This therapy is used directly by several SLPs as well. The SLPs can help parents reinforce the same treatment at home in a casual setting for the kids. Currently, apps like Stamurai can help children and their parents find out how to employ this technique by focusing on the vowel pronunciations and stressing certain consonants.
When your child is showing symptoms of stuttering which includes repetitions, prolongations and blocks in more than 50% of their speech, you should immediately consult a reputed speech therapist. These stuttering exercises at home can also help your child attain more fluency and confidence while sharing their thoughts.