- Take care not to draw negative attention to the speech difficulties. Instead:
- Listen patiently until the child is finished speaking, while maintaining consistent, appropriate eye contact.
- Try to avoid showing concern, pain, or pity on your face.
- Respond the same to disfluent speech as you would to fluent speech.
- Repeat back to the child what they said in a slow, relaxed manner. This will tell the child you were listening to what was said rather than how it was said.
- Try to use slower, more relaxed speech (easy speech) whenever you are communicating/talking with your child. This is difficult to do at first, but will become easier over time. Begin slowly, gradually increasing the use of “easy speech” during all daily activities. It is not advisable to draw attention to the child’s rate of speech. Instead simple provide this “easy speech” model whenever possible.
- Speak to your child in short, simple sentences using vocabulary appropriate for his age. Disfluencies will increase with longer, more complex utterances. Children frequently attempt to match adult language models.
- Try not to convey a sense of time pressure. Give your child adequate time to respond. Try to avoid rushing or asking him to hurry. Inserting adequate pauses in your speech will help reduce time pressure.
- Suggestions such as “slow down”, “think about what you are saying”, “start over”, and “take a deep breath” are not helpful and will only serve to frustrate your child during moments of speech difficulty.
- Protect your child’s talk time by limiting interruptions. Appropriate turn taking skills should be used by the entire family.
- If your child appears unaware of his disfluencies, avoid talking about the “stuttering” in his presence. In addition, do not label the disfluencies as “stuttering”.
- Avoid extensive open-ended questioning. Instead ask yes-no questions or short answers questions whenever possible.
- When your child is experiencing increased disfluencies, encourage more nonverbal or physical activities, such as coloring, outdoor recreation, and movies, etc. On more fluent days, encourage talking as appropriate.
- In all daily activities, attempt to make talking a positive and fun experience for your child. We suggest:
- Positive verbal praise for talking (i.e., “you are a good talker”, or “I like the way you said that”.)
- Talk about things that are important and of interest to your child.
- Allow your child to initiate conversations.
- Read frequently to your child in a slow and relaxed manner.
Below is our “REST” acronym. Posting copies of these in strategic places in the home (i.e., refrigerator, play area, car etc.) will serve to reinforce important information to help you make positive changes in your communication patterns with your child:
- R – Repeat back
- E – Eye contact
- S – Slow, easy speech
- T – Turn taking
For the child who is showing clearly negative responses to stuttering, possibly with evident secondary behaviors such as pushing or struggling, it may be more appropriate for parents to respond to the speech difficulties in a manner that validates the child’s feelings. If your child is aware of and responding negatively to their stuttering, we offer the following example to illustrate how a parent can respond supportively and appropriately to their child’s speech difficulities:
If you were watching your child struggle with a task such as getting dressed, and you saw that he was getting frustrated, you would say something like, “Getting dressed can be hard, can’t it?” This gives your child an opportunity to express his feelings and reassures him that it is no big deal to have trouble with that task. You would probably then ask if you can help. So your child then experiences relief and learns to expect a helpful or comforting response from you in times of difficulty or frustration. The same should apply when your child is having speech difficulties and is showing frustration over those difficulties. When you choose to ignore a struggled moment of stuttering, you may inadvertently send a mixed message. your child may wonder why you are not responding in the way he has come to expect, and become concerned. Instead of ignoring these difficult moments, you can validate their feelings with a simple response such as, “That was hard, wasn’t it? Mommy and Daddy have trouble talking sometimes, too. Would you like me to help you with that word?” At this point you can start to say the word together with your child if he wants, or you can simply demonstrate (we call it modeling) saying the word slowly and easily. If you and your child say the word together, this will ensure that he experiences success saying the word that he stuttered on. Responding with help and support will reassure your child and help to lessen his negative response to the stuttering.
We caution parents to limit how often they acknowledge moments of stuttering and to carefully choose only the most difficult speech situations to address. Teaching parents a more proactive approach empowers them and can cause dramatic changes in the progression of the disorder for many young children.
Protecting you child’s talk time and limiting interruptions can have a positive effect on the child’s fluency. We recommend that the entire family try to support consistent turn-taking during conversations. This may be difficult to manage, especially with siblings, during family time. We have had great success with recommending that families use a “turn-taking” symbol to help them manage turn taking within the family. Simply find an object that family members can hold to designate whose turn it is to talk. Any small, inanimate object will do, such as a special rock, a large fancy spoon, a statue of some sort, or a toy. Whoever is holding the object has the floor and is allowed to continue talking as long as he or she has possession of the object. When finished speaking, you simply pass the object to the next person who wishes to talk. This strategy is especially effective around the dinner table or in the car. Once your family has become more aware of good turn-taking skills, verbal reminders alone will be sufficient, and use of the turn-taking symbol can be discontinued.
For children who are being ridiculed by their peers about their stuttering, it is helpful to problem solve a solution with the child’s speech therapist, if possible. If not, the following are some solutions that may work in your classroom.
- It is best to deal with each instance quickly and to reassure the child that the teasing was not kind or appropriate. Talk to the child directly about what was said and how that made the child feel. Validate the child’s feelings.
- If possible, talk with the perpetrators as quickly as possible. Explain how their comments were hurtful and un-supportive. Explore why the teasing occurred. Many times children tease when they don’t understand something they are seeing or hearing.
- Discuss teasing with the entire class in a general fashion. Talk about individual differences and strengths and weaknesses of the class in general. Explain the need for tolerance of these differences and set up a “zero tolerance” policy for teasing. In addition, explore suggestions for handling teasing and providing support for peers who are being teased. Many times children need to role play hurtful situations in order to be able to handle them better and to understand the negative impact teasing can have. It is recommended that the discussion not be specific to the stuttering, but rather general in nature.
- Talk with the parents of children who are being teased and who are teasing. Children do not always share information with their parents and it is important that this happen in a timely manner. Excessive teasing about stuttering can result in behavior issues and increased difficulty with stuttering. The child who stutters may begin to limit their participation in classroom activities in order to avoid being teased.
When parents have concerns about their child’s persistent stuttering, it is highly recommended that they contact a speech-language pathologist who has expertise in stuttering. The American Speech-Language Hearing Association’s (ASHA) Division 4-Fluency, suggests parents look for a Board Recognized Fluency Specialist. Speech pathologists with this distinction have received extensive training and experience in the diagnosis and treatment of stuttering disorders.
Individuals looking for referrals in their area for fluency specialists can contact the Stuttering Foundation of America (SFA) for a referral list. You may call the SFA at 1-800-992-9392, or visit their website at www.stuttersfa.org.
Differential diagnosis is the key to effective early intervention. It is critical to have your child evaluated by a speech-language pathologist with fluency expertise in order to accurately determine whether your child’s disfluencies are normal or abnormal.
Please visit our stuttering facts page to learn interesting facts about stuttering.
The Stuttering Foundation of America provides helpful information on their web site: Insurance Coverage