(This brochure produced by the Stuttering Foundation of America, was compiled by Dr. Barry Guitar, University of Vermont and Dr. Edward Conture, Syracuse University and may be downloaded for individual use provided credit is given to the Stuttering Foundation of America)
If your child has difficulty speaking and tends to hesitate on or repeat certain syllables, words, or phrases, he may have a speech disfluency or stuttering problem. But he simply may be going through periods of normal disfluency that most children experience as they learn to speak. This pamphlet will help you understand the difference between stuttering and normal language development. The normally disfluent child 1. The normally disfluent child occasionally repeats syllables or words once or twice, li-li-like this. Disfluencies may also include hesitancies and the use of fillers such as "uh", "er", "um". 2. Disfluencies occur most often between ages one and one-half and five years, and they tend to come and go. They are usually signs that a child is learning to use language in new ways. If disfluencies disappear for several weeks, then return, the child may just be going through another state of learning. The child with milder stuttering 1. A child with milder stuttering repeats sounds more than twice, li-li-li-li-like this. Tension and struggle may be evident in the facial muscles, especially around the mouth. 2. The pitch of the voice may rise with repetitions, and occasionally the child will experience a "block" - no airflow or voice for several seconds. 3. Try to model slow and relaxed speech when talking with your child, and encourage other family members to do the same. Don't speak so slowly that it sounds abnormal, but keep it unhurried, with many pauses. Television's Mr. Rogers is a good example of this style of speech. 4. Slow and relaxed speech can be the most effective when combined with some time each day for the child to have one parent's undivided attention. A few minutes can be set aside at a regular time when you are doing nothing else but listening to your child talk about whatever is on his mind. 5. When your child talks to you or asks you a question, try to PAUSE a second or so before you answer. This will help make talking to your child less hurried, more relaxed. 6. Try not to be upset or annoyed when stuttering increases. Your child is doing his best, as he copes with learning many new skills all at the same time. Your patient, accepting attitude will help him immensely. 7. Effortless repetitions or prolongations of sounds are the healthiest form of stuttering. Anything that helps your child stutter like this instead of stuttering tensely or avoiding words is helping. 8. If your child is frustrated or upset at times when his stuttering is worse, give him reassurance. Some children respond well to hearing, "I know it's hard to talk at times.....but lots of people get stuck on words.....it's okay." Other children are most reassured by a touch or a hug when they seem frustrated. 9. Disfluencies may come and go but are now present more often than absent. The child with more severe stuttering 1. If your child stutters on more than 10% of his speech, stutters with considerable effort and tension, or avoids stuttering by changing words and using extra sounds to get started, he needs speech therapy. Complete blocks of speech are more common than repetitions or prolongations. Disfluencies tend to be present in most speaking situations now. 2. Seek out a speech and language pathologist who has a Certificate of Clinical Competence from the American Speech- Language-Hearing Association. You may contact the Stuttering Foundation of America at 1-800-992-9392. They will try to provide you with the name of a speech-language pathologist, or you may contact a nearby university or hospital clinic for referral assistance. 3. The suggestions for parents of a child with mild stuttering are also appropriate when the child has a severe problem. Try to remember that slowing and relaxing your own speaking style is far more helpful than telling the child to slow down. 4. Encourage your child to talk to you about his stuttering. Show patience and acceptance as you discuss it. Overcoming stuttering is more a matter of losing fear of stuttering than a matter of trying harder. Tips for talking with your child 1. Use a relatively slow, relaxed rate in your own conversational speech - but not so slow as to sound unnatural. Try to sound like Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. 2. Listen to what the child is saying. Respond to that, rather than the stuttering. 3. Give appropriate responses to what your child is saying such as head nods, smiles, and "uh-huhs." 4. Keep natural eye contact when the child is taking. 5. Don't rush the child by interrupting or finishing words for him. Don't let others rush or tease the child.