Some kids who stutter grow out of their stutter, clutter or stammer, but for those who continue to struggle, or take longer to resolve their stutter, speech therapy for kids can help them overcome this common challenge.
Have you noticed that your child gets stuck on certain words or sounds in conversation?
They try to say words but the words won’t come out in a timely manner. Your child may feel like they need to push the words out or avoid speaking all together. If so, he or she may be experiencing a stutter or a stammer.
Some level of stuttering is quite common in childhood. According to the National Stuttering Association, approximately 5 percent of children world wide experience some form of stuttering. While many of those young children ultimately stop stuttering in childhood, those who continue to stutter are likely to continue stuttering in some fashion throughout their lives.
Early detection and intervention can help kids who stutter
- Children experience frustration and confusion when their stutters happen and they don’t know what to do to help themselves. A therapist can provide children with functional tools they can use that would be uniquely designed to match their needs.
- Children can start losing their confidence and the will to engage with people as their stutter persists. Early intervention can prevent this issue from getting worse.
How do you know if your child has a stutter or a stammer?
- She speaks too fast and is hard to understand
- He repeats words and/or sounds (ex. “My my my mother….”)
- She prolongs certain sounds (ex. “Sss sss Sam …”)
- He blocks or gets “stuck” on specific or random sounds that may last a second or several seconds
- She has dis-coordinated breathing (ex. taking big gulps of air through her mouth)
- He pauses in anticipation of stuttering on a word
- Teenagers and adults sometimes experience anticipation of a stutter before it happens, since they have lived with their stutter for a while and learned the patterns (ex. stuttering on words that start with the letter ‘r’). Anticipating a stutter can lead to more stutters, or the avoidance or substitution of target words.
- Stutters could be setting-specific, or can come and go
When we start working with a child in speech therapy for stuttering, we first need to identify the type of stutter patterns they have, and then the habits that have developed over time. Children tend to develop habits in an effort to help themselves in their speaking. However, over time those habits can interfere with progress and even contribute to the severity of the stutter.
How can I help my kid who stutter?
Once we establish the basics, we frequently start with breathing. Here is a technique we often use. You can try this for yourself or your child to help at home:
Practice Breathing. The most important aspect to speaking clearly and fluently is a well-coordinated breathing pattern. You can model smooth and steady breathing in a quiet space for your child. Start by encouraging a practice of this breathing so their body can get used to the breathing pattern:
- Start breathing in smoothly through your nose.
- Notice how the belly moves outward and expands during the inhale and returns to resting position during the exhale. Exhale through the mouth slowly. Place a hand on the belly for further sensory input.
- Continue this cycle of breathing until it feels synchronized and has a nice steady flow.
- You can then carry over this pattern into the following step.
Bring Breathing into Book Time. If your child is at reading level, you can use book time to your advantage and incorporate practicing the breathing strategies during your book reading routines.
- How you do this will depend upon your child’s reading level:
- Pre-Readers: For children who are not reading yet, you can model correct breathing when you are teaching them a word that you want them to repeat.
- Single-Word: If your son or daughter is on one-word level, instruct him/her to breathe in through the nose before reading the word and exhale when starting to read the word. Make sure that he/she is not holding on to the breath.
- Sentences: If your child is reading on sentence level, have them breathe in at the start of the sentence.
- Paragraphs: If they are on paragraph/story level, have them breathe in at the start of each paragraph. You can write the letter ‘B’ at the beginning of their reading spot to indicate where they need to breathe in.
- Complex: For children who are reading complex sentences and paragraphs, once they master the first step, you can move further in practicing their breathing. In complex sentences, a good time to breathe in gently is at conjunctions (and, but, so, etc.) and commas. Using these strategies helps your child to vary their intonation and slow down their speech.
- Doing this exercise can help in developing awareness for when your little one is anticipating a stutter, as many children stutter when they read as well as when they are speaking. Help your child start to identify when this habit occurs as they are reading, and they will start to learn it for their speaking as well.
- Remind your child not to avoid or substitute words that they feel they will stutter on. The habit of avoidance and substitution can grow over time, and even into adulthood, affecting confidence in expressing themselves in personal relationships, at school or work, and opportunities for public speaking. Instead, remind them if they feel a stutter coming on, to use their strategies to get through the stutter. It is always better to get through something challenging instead of looking for ways to get away from it.
- When your child becomes comfortable with the breathing patterns, you can carry over the strategy into conversations. Practice common conversations with them using what you have learned above.
What are some other causes or contributors to stuttering?
Sometimes children stutter because they don’t organize their thoughts before speaking. They tend to try to figure out what they want to say on the go. The disorganization results in choppy speech, dis-coordinated breathing, repeating themselves, and other behaviors. Remind your child to think of what they want to say first, organize the story in their mind, and then share it.
Remember – repetition, awareness, and patience are essential throughout the therapy process. Many of our clients have benefited from speech therapy for stuttering, using techniques like what we shared above.
Starting early is important, and the learning will offer lifetime benefits, like:
- Reducing the frequency and severity of their stutters.
- Better coping strategies to overcome severe stutters especially when situated in a setting that provokes more stutters.
- Greater comfort and confidence in speaking to friends, family, and new people.
- Increased success in school or work from confidence, comfort and abilities.
At Better Speech, we know that you deserve ideas and therapy that works for you and your family. We have experts in your child’s speech needs and assign the right therapist; not just the therapist that happens to be in your area. Schedule a free consultation for online speech therapy for toddlers with one of our dedicated speech-language pathologists today!