“What’s going on? Daniel is repeating the first few words of his sentence”.
“Nothing happened to Jessica; why are her words getting stuck?”
“Only yesterday Lily could say everything, but today she can’t seem to get a word out”.
“Oscar’s mouth seems to move, but no words are coming out”.
Whether you are a teacher, friend, family member or parent of a precious little one stuttering, we hope this post will help you to understand the causes and treatment for stuttering in children.
What is stuttering?
There is much debate regarding the definition of stuttering, which in simple terms is: A speech disorder that interrupts the fluency and flow of speech.
The most common definition, is an oldie but a goodie from the World Health Organisation (1977) defining stuttering as:
"Disorders in the rhythm of speech, in which the individual knows precisely what he wishes to say, but at the time is unable to say it because of an involuntary, repetitive prolongation or cessation of a sound."
When does stuttering begin?
Between the ages of 2 and 5 when the child’s speech and language system is developing.
Unlike other speech disorders of this age, stuttering is sudden with a third of cases beginning within a single day.
It is a physical disorder not a psychological one.
Types of stuttering in children
There are several different types of stuttering and the individual can have one or more of the following:
Sounds are prolonged during the stuttering moments such as “wwwwwwhere is my teddy?”
Blocking is where the lips and tongue may be held in one position for a period of time and can accompany a complete blockage of speech such as “…… can I have that dinosaur?”
Physical tensions and struggles
Stuttering can be accompanied by physical movements such as eye-blinking, jaw jerking, even arms flapping as the individual attempts to speak.
Do I get help straight away?
YES, please do not wait. Stuttering is known to:
Affect a child’s social and emotional well-being and can result in teasing and bullying in the playground
Become more difficult to treat in the school-aged child
Accompany other psychological factors such as depression, anxiety and stress, particularly if the disorder persists into late childhood, adolescence and adulthood.
Who can help if my child is stuttering?
Speech Pathologists are the only professionals trained to assess, treat and manage stuttering. It is best to consult one, ideally with experience in the disorder and/or a special interest in stuttering. Consulting a Speech Pathologist does not require a referral.
How is it treated?
A stutter in a child should be treated as close to possible to its onset. Your Speech Pathologist will first perform an assessment and treatment will follow. Treatment involves working with the parent/s to teach ways to support their child’s speech to become fluent. Sessions should be supportive for the parent/s and enjoyable for the child.
More about the treatment sessions:
Successful treatment for stuttering in children does require a commitment by the parents to implement the strategies. These strategies are discussed in session with the Speech Pathologist and need to be implemented at home.
Once the child’s speech system is deemed stable, a systematic maintenance/monitoring schedule is implemented to assist in preventing stuttering relapse and ensuring the child’s speech system remains stable.
During treatment parents are often encouraged to:
As much as possible, provide a relaxed home environment that allows opportunities for the child to speak without competing for attention. Eye contact is important as this helps the child know that he/she is being listened to.
Listen attentively to your child when they are speaking by focusing on the conversation. This helps to reduce any time pressure that he/she may be experiencing. This may include ensuring turn taking is occurring with all family members, so that everyone is able to have their say.
Provide a positive speaking experience for the child who is stuttering so that he/she builds confidence and learns they can still communicate successfully even when struggling through stuttering moments.
Be open and honest about your child’s stuttering struggle if the child raises the subject or expresses frustration. This helps them to feel secure when the struggle to talk occurs.
So, the message is clear: stuttering is a physical disorder not a psychological issue, and it requires immediate attention from a Speech Pathologist qualified in evidence-based intervention techniques.
Please do not leave your child’s speech to chance; early intervention is the best intervention!
If you have any concerns, you can speak with Michaela at Fremantle Speech Pathology Services; she is so generous with her advice.
Call her on (08) 94334595 or email firstname.lastname@example.org