When I was a young girl, I stuttered and stammered so badly that only my mother and grandmother could understand me. At first, the teacher at school thought I was mentally slow or disabled, but this is not true. I went to speech therapy for over five years and have been cured of my stammer. Here are six tips for parents of a stuttering child, and how to help.
Do not force the child to repeat words.
This is incredibly embarrassing. If your child stammers over a word, being forced to repeat it over and over again will not ‘train out’ the stutter. All it will do it teach your child that the content of their communication is far less important than its presentation. When I was a child, I refused adults’ demands to ‘repeat it again and don’t stutter’, or ‘say it five times again’. I spent a lot of time silent, convinced that my input wasn’t important due to flawed diction.
Do encourage your child’s vocabulary.
Only when you are alone with your child, suggest other words. Should she stutter saying the ‘s-stone is buh-blue’, say to her “the pebble is cerulean”. Not only does this broaden her ability to choose synonyms within her vocal range, it also allows her to choose the most succinct word. No child is too young to learn a varied vocabulary. My grandmother had an enormous vocabulary, and I was reading at a post-college level by seventh grade, due to these suggestions. Do not ever use this method in front of other people.
Do not become impatient or finish the child’s sentences for her.
If the child is caught up on a letter, the urge to start guessing is almost overwhelming. ‘May I have a c-c-c-c-…’ could be cookie, candy, cough drop, or cold drink. Don’t guess. Just wait. Interrupting a stuttering child, who is making a huge effort to be understood, is humiliating. Try not to stare at the child when they are caught up, either. Break eye contact occasionally, as you would in a normal conversation.
Do not ever allow others to mock or laugh at the stutter.
Ever. First of all, you don’t want the child to think stuttering is a good way to get a laugh out of people. Second, your child should hear nothing but perfect diction out of others who are not stutterers. Even now, as a 31-year-old adult, if I hear a stutter, I immediately start to stutter again. By stuttering back at the child, you’re making the problem worse. Lastly, allowing others to mimic the stutter is just cruel. Your child is intensely aware they don’t speak like everyone else. There’s no reason to rub their nose in it.
Be very wary of ‘special’ education classes.
A lot of children who stutter are otherwise right on track academically. Do not allow your child to be placed in any special classes unless there is a learning disability present. A bright child placed in such classes may feel punished, or excluded from ‘normal’ kids due to their stutter. Another huge drawback to such classes are that, once again, hearing other speech impediments can make stuttering worse. Be sure your child is carefully evaluated before consenting to any special education.
Finally, find the best speech therapist in the area, preferably one that specializes in stuttering.
No child is ever too young for speech therapy. If the child is vocalizing incorrectly, get help immediately. A stutter that is ignored does not go away. Allowing the stutter to go untreated will condemn them to a lifetime of being unable to speak correctly. It is extraordinarily rare for a stuttering adult to be cured. I credit my 99.9% ‘cure’ with years of early speech therapy. Do not delay on getting help.
By following these tips, your stuttering child can be cured of their speech impediment, or, at the very least, find ways to work around it successfully. An understanding parent is the greatest facet of overcoming stuttering a child will ever have. Be supportive, patient, and kind, and your child will one day speak clearly.