Ms. Deborah Pike
959 Eighth Avenue
New York, N.Y. 10019
Dear Ms. Pike:
If your child had a 25 percent chance of lifelong disability -- but could reduce that risk with early intervention -- would you defer treatment? Of course not! Yet that's the bad advice Good Housekeeping's July "Ask the Doctor" column offered to the parent of a three-year-old who shows signs of stuttering.
The National Stuttering Project knows that deferring an evaluation by a qualified speech pathologist is the wrong advice because our 2,000 members have been there. We're the nation's largest support organization for people who stutter.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 1 out of 30 children stutter. About 75 percent of kids who stutter develop out of it. Today, speech pathologists can identify which children are at risk for chronic stuttering. Current studies show that if these at-risk children receive appropriate therapy at an early age, most will NOT be chronic stutterers as adults.
However, the longer speech therapy is deferred, the harder it is for children to learn new speech patterns and attitudes. Children who become adult stutterers face a lifelong challenge to achieve and maintain fluent speech.
The best course of action for parents whose child shows signs of stuttering is to seek an evaluation -- the sooner the better -- from a certified speech-language pathologist with experience in treating children who stutter.
By the way, your doctor's advice to tell a stuttering child to slow down and stay calm is certain to increase the child's frustration. Most of our members have painful childhood memories of receiving un-helpful advice from misinformed adults.
There are many things parents can do to help a child who stutters. Most speech pathologists advise parents to give the child plenty of time to speak, avoid interrupting or finishing the child's sentences, and help make talking a comfortable and pleasant activity.
The National Stuttering Project's local support groups offer information to people who stutter and parents of stuttering children. We also work closely with speech-language pathologists who specialize in stuttering treatment.
Parents can learn more by calling 800/364-1677.
Public Relations Chairman
National Stuttering Project