How to Help Your Child Overcome Stuttering

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According to Charles Van Riper, a renowned author who was a severe stutterer himself, stuttering occurs when the forward flow of speech is interrupted abnormally by repetitions or prolongations of a sound, syllable, or articulatory posture or by avoidance of a struggle behavior.  Regardless of race, families have been bothered by this condition.  Parents are often the first ones to be overly anxious about and diagnose their child’s speech.

Here are some tips that can help your preschool-age child overcome stuttering:

1. Avoid labeling your child a stutterer.

Calling your child a “stammerer,” “stutterer,” or “stutterbox” will make him overly aware of his speech.  It may also give him the impression that speaking is difficult.  Labeling may also give your child a low self-concept.

It may help to solicit your friends’ or relatives’ help.  Tell them not to call your child such names.

2.  Allow you child to express himself or herself freely.

Though your child may not seem to be talking sense all the time, permit him to talk anyway.  This will eliminate the child’s fear or expressing himself and the fear or how others would react.

3.  Listen.

It’s not enough that you allow your child to talk; you need to listen.  Avoid interrupting even if your child repeats some syllables.  If your child wants to tell you about school give your attention by looking at your child or nodding or by saying “uh-huh.”

4.  Avoid rushing your child when he or she tries to tell you something.

Your child may be repeating syllables or words, and listening to him would take more time.  Even then avoid saying, “speak faster” or “Could you speak better?”

Allowing your child to speak at his own pace tells him about loving parents who are willing to wait for him when he talks.  This way he doesn’t harbor the idea that he is a stutterer.

5.  Refrain from saying negative words or “stop that.”

Many parents would say “no” at whatever their child does or says–sometimes even before the child would say or do something.  Later in life this may cause inability to express himself fluently and to work well with other people.  He might be afraid he might not do anything right and lose confidence in himself.

6.  Understand and accept your child’s expression of guilt and anxiety.

For example, if your child accidentally broke your favorite vase, you may be tempted to ask the question, “Did you break the vase?” and more often your child would deny or cry.  You may want to ask this way: “Tell me what happened to the vase.  I’ll listen and try to understand you.”  If your child admits his mistake, words of assurance like, “I understand” or “just be careful next time” would help.  Your child would feel that he is confiding in an individual who understands and accepts his foibles.

7.  Focus on your child’s traits.

When a child repeats syllables or words his speech is magnified.  His other traits –especially positive ones – are ignored.  The child may view himself only as a stutterer.  The parent can give a child verbal praise when he does something good or says a word fluently.

8.  Simplify your speech or manner of talking.

If a child comes from a family of intellectuals where words and sentences are constructed in a manner more complicated than the average people, a child may struggle to sound like his parents and older or more fluent-speaking siblings.  Try talking to the child in more basic and simpler sentences.  This may diminish the stuttering.

9.  Lower your standard of fluency.

Oliver Bloodstein, in A Handbook on Stuttering, noted that the parents’ high standard of fluency can cause stuttering.  Most highly educated parents have standards of fluency that are too high for their children.  Because the child feels the pressure to measure up to his parents’ standard, he becomes too conscious of his speech and stutters.  It would help to accept your child’s simple language and speech skills (not baby talk).

10.  Teach your child to handle frustrations.

A child who is used to having his way tends to be overwhelmed by frustrations.  When he stutters, he’d feel so frustrated.  Help your child handle frustrations by delaying in giving him his wants (not his basic needs).  Balance your attention among your children.  Don’t let the stutterer be the focus of everyone’s time and attention. As the child learns to deal with little frustrations, he wouldn’t feel so bad when he stutters.

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