Parents do not cause stuttering, but with accurate information and suggestions for responding to it, they can help their children maximize their communication potential.
What can I do to help my child?
Helpful ways to listen:
1. Pay more attention to what your child is saying (that is, the content or message) than to how he or she is saying it (that is, whether it’s stuttered or not).
2. Pause briefly before responding to your child’s questions, statements, and comments.
3. Try not to finish your child’s thoughts and sentences. Allow your child to complete his or her own thoughts and sentences.
4. Try to maintain reasonably relaxed body language when talking with your child, especially when he or she seems to be having trouble talking.
Helpful ways to talk:
1. Make talking fun! Let your child talk about things that interest him/her.
2. Speak at a normal to slow-normal rate, particularly when your child is having trouble talking.
3. When your child is less fluent, reduce the number and complexity of your questions. For example, ask your child, “Did you play inside or outside today?” rather than, “Tell me everything you did at recess today.”
4. Let your child know you like his or her attempts to communicate by saying such things as “I really like the things you tell me,” together with positive, encouraging nonverbal (for example, a smiling facial expression) responses.
Helpful ways to respond:
1. When asked, talk openly about stuttering in a matter-of-fact way and at a level appropriate to your child.
2. Try to minimize verbal and/or nonverbal reactions to your child’s stuttering. For example, avoid telling him or her to “relax,” “say it again,” “take a deep breath,” “slow down,” think about what you are saying,” etc.
3. When your child shows frustration with stuttering (for example, refusing to talk, covering his or her mouth, or saying “Why can’t I talk?”), respond as you would to a skinned knee, that is, in a matter-of-fact way by acknowledging the situation, comforting your child, and moving on.
Helpful things for you and your family to do:
1. Help all family members learn to take their turns talking and listening while conversing with one another.
2. Establish and be consistent with the child and family’s daily routines (for example, bed time).
3. Minimize undue lifestyle time pressure. For example, try to avoid continually doing several things at once. Instead, try to establish a reasonably relaxed atmosphere in your everyday life.
4. When possible, give your child advanced notice about upcoming changes in family routines, schedules, or events (for example, moving, new baby, change in school or daycare, family vacation, new caregiver, etc.).
Facts about stuttering, language, and emotion in children:
– At any one time, about 1% of school-age children stutter.
– Stuttering typically begins around 2 to 3 years of age, but may start later in childhood.
– Boys are 3 to 4 times more likely to stutter than girls.
– Stuttering tends to run in families.
– Many stutterings include repetitions of single syllables (e.g., “bu-bu-but” or “I-I-I”), prolongations of sounds (e.g., “IIIIIIIIIIII”), and blocks where a person can’t seem to get the sound out (e.g., “……….what?”).
– Nervousness is not thought to cause stuttering.
– There is little evidence that people “catch” stuttering from others.
– Recovery from stuttering in young children, at least half of the time, occurs within 2 years of stuttering onset.
– Early recovery from stuttering occurs more often for girls than boys.
– Did you know that all of these people have experienced stuttering or continue to stutter? Marilyn Monroe, John Updike, Winston Churchill, Charles Darwin, B. B. King, Joe Biden, and several more…
– Infants only a few months old can distinguish between different sounds within a language.
– Children are able to segment sounds into words by 7 months of age.
– Children say their first words at about 12 months of age.
– Most researchers agree that children at any given time know more words than they can express.
– Children typically know 14,000 words by age 6.
– Complex syntactic constructions such as negatives and wh-questions are acquired during the preschool years.
– The stages of language development for bilingual and monolingual children are similar.
– Language processing is generally thought to occur in the left hemisphere of the brain.
Emotions and Thinking at 3-5 years old
– Children this age are starting to understand that others’ have their own needs and feelings that may differ from their own.
– They are growing in their ability, not just to notice that another person is having feelings, but to identify and name those feelings.
– Similarly, preschoolers are beginning to recognize the need regulate their emotions and impulses.
– They are moving beyond the concrete world of what is right in front of them, and are starting to be able to think and to talk about what is and is not present, and what might may or may not be true.
– They also start to see a world of possibilities: truths, lies, ambiguities, and ways to get things both right and wrong.”
– They are starting to think about, talk about, and adjust to what another person may be thinking.
– Social skills like empathy and fairness also emerge and children begin to have preferred playmates and form friendships.
Help and Hope
Below are some websites that we have generally found to be reputable and helpful for children who stutter and their parents. That said, please understand that these websites are not under the control of the Developmental Stuttering Project and our inclusion of these links should not imply that we are endorsing their content.
- Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center
- Stuttering Foundation of America
- American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
- National Stuttering Association
- Friends Who Stutter (The National Association of Young People Who Stutter)
- TN Pathfinder (link for general disability services available in TN)