How to Stop Stuttering: Help Your Child Achieve Speech Fluency

How to stop stuttering – can I help my child speak fluently?

What are the different types of stuttering or stammering I need to look out for?

What are the good practices to help my child stop stuttering?

As a parent, what should I know to help my child gain more confidence to stop stuttering?

If you are seeking help on how to help your child to stop stuttering, please read on to find out answers to the most commonly asked questions. Our speech pathologist / speech therapist explains the most common types of stuttering, and what to do to help your child achieve speech fluency.

There are 3 types of stuttering or stammering behaviour, where your child know what he wants to say but can’t say it fluently:

1. repetition of sound or sounds: “I-I-I want chocolate!”

2. prolongation: “Wwwwwhere is the ball?”

3. block: (the sound is blocked, your child can’t get the sound out at all… – and then has to force the sound out):”—–I have it.”

How to stop stuttering with speech therapy techniques:

1. increase frequency of fluent speech, or behaviour that is incompatible with stuttering, and

2. reduce the factors associated with stuttering (like quitting smoking: e.g. increase gum-chewing, reduce factors associated with smoking)

Let’s start with the list of Don’t:

1. Don’t just pretend there is no problem. If your child has difficulty saying something he would be the first to know at some level, (even if he does not articulate it) and people not talking about his difficulty may suggest to him it is taboo. Do make it acceptable to discuss stuttering.

2. Don’t ask your child to ‘take a deep breath’.

Suggestions like that may sometimes interrupt your child’s natural speech breathing coordination. Use more general suggestions such as ‘Take your time’ and allow your child to manage his speech by himself. More importantly, action speaks louder than words – show by your action and body language that you are prepared to take your time to listen.

3. Don’t interrupt your child. Be supportive and helpful if you need to but don’t interrupt your child.

Now, let’s talk about the things you should Do:

1. Have a way of talking about the concept of speech fluency in a descriptive, non-judgemental way. You can’t change a behaviour if you can’t identify or recognize it. Some words you can use are ‘smooth’, ‘bumpy speech’, ‘stuck’, ‘easy to say’, ‘nice and smooth’ etc.

2. Introduce the concept of different ways of talking.

Encourage your child to observe different ways of talking by others, understand the different descriptive words we use, and then to talk in different ways by himself. e.g. softly and loudly, slowly and quickly, low pitch ‘papa bear’ voice or high pitch ‘baby bear’ voice, speaking in a ‘hard’, sudden and effortful way, versus a ‘soft’ and gentle way, tal.king. in. a. way. versus a ‘smooth’ way etc. The soft, gently way makes fluent speech more natural, and stuttering less likely.

3. Improve your child’s overall oral motor co-ordination e.g. with rhymes and tongue twisters. Recite them together with your child until she is confident, and then encourage her to ‘recite them in the same way’ by herself.

4. Help your child improve overall language proficiency e.g. learn more words and improve his vocabulary, learn different sentence structures to express ideas or ask questions.

5. Help your child practise long, multi-syllabic words, paying attention to the sounds as well as the stress pattern e.g. in a short one-syllable word that is the only one we stress and we say ‘Bar’, but in a long word like ‘banana’ we say ‘ber-Na-ner’, and we stress only the second syllable, it is ‘stressed’ or louder, we don’t say ‘BA-na-na’.

6. Prevention is better than correction. Pre-empt or prevent situations that make it likely for your child to stutter. If your child is overly excited, may not know the right word or sentence to use, is about to use a tricky word he may trip up on etc, prevent him from stuttering by

– talking about it yourself first (so that he has time to catch his breath), or

– demonstrate slow fluent clear speech using the right words or sentences, or

– provide some cues by giving him examples to choose from e.g. “Do you want me to press the button and then you catch, or would you like to press the button and I’ll catch?”

7. Look for the positive too.

Praise examples of successful communication e.g. “Wow, you managed to say that tricky word easily!” “That was a very interesting story!” “What a long sentence that was!”

Give your child positive reinforcement or praise about different aspects of communication, – don’t judge your child’s speech solely by whether your child stuttered or not. Communication and interaction is much more than that.

If in doubt, do seek professional help.

Without any intervention, a child who stutters may just outgrow it – or the stuttering may persist to adulthood, with repercussions for school, career, social interaction and self-esteem.

A child is likely to take less time to overcome stuttering, and results are usually more permanent. (In addition, hopefully, children usually have picked up less ’emotional baggage’ such as avoidance and poor self-esteem.)

If you are concerned, please consult a speech therapist / pathologist to get professional help or support for your child.

Ms Magan Chen brings with her more than 24 years of speech and language therapy experience. She has helped more than 1500 individuals to overcome their communication or Learning Difficulties. She has a special interest in helping children and adults overcome their stuttering.

Ms Magan and her team help children to eliminate frustrations from speech, language or social skills problems, and enable them to keep up in school without too much stress, and be successful and happy.

We also help adults to overcome their speech and language difficulties so that they can achieve more at work, and enjoy being more productive and successful.

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