Welcome back, friends! I hope you are all doing well and staying warm. This week has brought more snow to central New Jersey. I didn’t think it was possible, but here we are, inches deep in another snow storm. It has snowed more this winter than I can recall over many past winters. Luckily (or unluckily) my daughter is delighted by this magical weather and loves to be outside. Sometimes, I get tired of climbing up those snow hills. Both literally and figuratively. Being a parent is tough – and being a parent of a child with a speech or language disorder can be tougher. It can feel like you are climbing a snow bank with no end in sight. One of the most challenging things about speech disorders is not having people to confide in .
If you’ve been following along, we are working through a series of speech techniques that can be easily implemented at home. If you don’t have this free guide, I encourage you to download it here.
Today, I want to take some time to address a speech problem that can be difficult to talk about- stuttering. The social stigma attached to stuttering can make people who stutter feel secluded and hopeless. Society hears one thing and perceives another. I want to break down that barrier and provide tips and resources for you to help you climb that mountain (or snow bank, depending on where you live!)
Let’s face it – we all have moments of error in speech. Sometimes we get stuck, sometimes we forget what to say, sometimes we repeat ourselves. I hear myself make more errors than I would care to admit at times. However, these things do not define us – nor do they define those who have more disfluencies than is common. With that in mind, let’s dive in.
What is Stuttering Stuttering is defined as a speech disorder involving frequent problems with the normal fluency and flow of speech (mayo clinic). Stuttering is characterized by repetition of sounds and words; prolongation of sounds and pauses/blocks in speech. Stuttering can be accompanied by secondary characteristics such as tension in the face or hands, eye blinks, or head jerking. These tend to make the stutter appear more severe and compound the disfluencies in speech.
Who Stutters Approximately 3 million Americans stutter. Stuttering most often occurs in children between the ages of 2 and 6. Boys are more likely to stutter than girls. This is true in both childhood and adulthood. While most people who stutter begin to stutter as children, many children outgrow stuttering. Approximately 75 percent of children who stutter do not continue to stutter into adolescents and adulthood.
What Causes Stuttering While there is no one cause for stuttering, there are risk factors associated with stuttering. Genetics plays a role in stuttering. If you have a relative who stutters, then you are at a greater risk to develop a stutter. Stress and emotional trauma can increase the risk of stuttering. High expectations and pressure to succeed are associated with increased stuttering. Childhood developmental disorders, as well as speech and language disorders, are linked to stuttering. Stuttering can develop after a brain injury such as a stroke.
Types of Stuttering Childhood Developmental Stuttering –This type of stuttering is the most common, and affects primarily children (ages 2-6). This stutter occurs in children when they are developing speech and learning language. Some people believe that developmental stuttering occurs when a child’s speech abilities are unable to meet his verbal demands. The risk factors discussed above can play a role in developmental stuttering.
Neurogenic Stuttering – Neurogenic stuttering may occur after a brain injury such as a stroke, accident, or any kind of head trauma. With neurogenic stuttering, the brain has trouble producing clear and fluent speech after an injury.
If you are the parent of a child who stutters, do not panic! Odds are that your child will most likely outgrow his stutter. There are things you can do to decrease disfluency and set your child up for success. Intervening early can reduce the chances of stuttering into adulthood.
Don’t draw attention – When your child has a moment of disfluency, don’t harp on it. Acknowledge what your child said without making him feel bad about the stutter.
Repetition – When your child stutters, repeat what he said back to him in a smooth, fluent voice. Modeling speech is key in all areas of speech development!
Breathe – Teach your child to take a breath before he speaks. A nice, deep breath will provide air flow and a pause for your child to align language desires and verbal demands.
Rate of speech – Keeping a steady, slow pace when speaking can help children to overcome moments of disfluency. Remind your child to speak slowly and steadily.
Talk about it – Talk with your child about stuttering (to the extent he is comfortable). As I mentioned earlier, stuttering can make people feel isolated and alone – kids are not immune from this. Open communication can reduce the stress and anxiety your child may feel.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) recommends that you contact a speech language pathologist if…
- Your child’s stuttering has lasted for 6–12 months or more.
- Your child starts to stutter late (after 3½ years old).
- Your child starts to stutter more often.
- Your child tenses up or struggles when talking.
- Your child avoids talking or says it is too hard to talk.
- There is a family history of stuttering.
For resources and information, click on the images below.
Also… check back tomorrow for a new and exciting Easter resource!