Goals you should set for your child if he is a stutterer
About one out of every five children develops a speech disfluency at some point. And around one out of every 20 children stutters. In fact, it’s not uncommon that children between the ages of 2 and 5 suddenly begin to stutter.
Yes, it’s understandable for parents to worry. Often, a child will simply outgrow a stutter on their own, unless of course, there is a family history of stuttering, or the child has other language and speech problems.
So what can you do to help your child?
For some, the instant reaction is to find a therapist. But as a parent of a child who stutters, it can be difficult to decide whether your child needs to see a speech therapist. The concern revolves around the thought that therapy could increase the child’s awareness of a ‘problem’. The negative effect could, in fact, escalate the stutter.
While there are no specific guidelines about when to start therapy for stuttering, it is advisable to begin within six to twelve months after first noticing a stutter. The sooner you start, the chances that your child benefits from therapy increases. Various therapeutic approaches can help your child. However, since outcomes vary for all individuals, you will need to decide which one works best for your child.
There are many ways you can help your stuttering child
Parents of stutters are typically concerned about how a stutter may affect their child’s life. Understanding how to respond to your child’s stuttering can significantly help your child overcome or manage the situation. So the more you learn about stuttering, the more prepared you will be in helping your child.
However, before you can even begin to make a difference, you must change your attitude towards the situation. Remember, stuttering is not anyone’s fault- not yours or the child’s. Once parents comprehend and accept their child’s stuttering, they can support their child and help build healthier attitudes.
Setting goals for a child that stutters
This may seem like an overwhelming task initially. But taking things day by day can help make small steps towards improvement. Let’s break down the process into little achievable goals that both you and your child can easily manage.
- Stuttering should be normalized
Everyone has their own set of challenges and hurdles, whether it’s learning to ride a bike or food allergies. For some, it may be speaking. By developing healthy attitudes and feelings about speaking, your child will be less anxious to talk. By keeping your child’s attention and energy focussed on specific tasks, the child can relax and take on any challenging task easily.
- Actively participate in a conversation
Give your child a little bit more attention when he wishes to converse. Identify situations in which your child is most fluent or most comfortable. Create opportunities for your child to talk. Let the child select topics of conversation that they are interested in or those they find fun and enjoyable. This gives them the confidence to be in their comfort zone.
Wait a few seconds after your child finishes speaking before you respond. Giving them adequate time to complete a thought is one way to help them slow down and talk at their own pace. And when your child speaks, don’t be critical or insist on correcting their speech.
- Focus on strengths, talents, and potentials
While stuttering may be an issue, it certainly should not be the only aspect of your child’s development. Let them know that you love them unconditionally. Your support can help boost confidence immensely.
Select activities that are less demanding communicatively so that your child is highly motivated to participate. This can include sports, scouts, music, arts and crafts, and numerous other hobbies. Allowing your child to participate in activities can help them feel less stressed. Moreover, having access to positive social interactions can also be quite beneficial.
- Set achievable goals
Stuttering can be linked to a variety of negative emotions. In some cases, family dynamics such as high expectations or a fast-paced lifestyle can be a contributing factor. By identifying your child’s strengths and weaknesses, create goals that your child will be motivated to achieve.
- Maintain eye contact
Many children who stutter feel ashamed. As a result, they struggle to maintain eye contact, and their confidence plunges. Encourage your child to maintain eye contact while they converse. This will help diminish their fear of speaking. At the end of the day, it’s essential to let your child know that stuttering is nothing to be ashamed of.
- Learn new words
Children may have more or less fluent periods of speech. Similarly, some words are more troublesome than others. Monitor which ones trigger your child’s stutter. Introduce a vocabulary that helps circumvent the onset of a stutter. More importantly, use a slowed, relaxed speech with adequate pauses so that your child can mimic the same style. This will allow the child to feel more comfortable while talking and help them build confidence in other instances. Thus fluency enhancing strategies can create an environment that supports fluent speech.
- Exercising the voice
A stuttering child may need to practice breathing and SLT (speech, language, and communication) activities. But remember not to overload the child in your overzealous efforts to rectify the condition.
There’s a time and a place for everything. A ten or twenty-minute session a few times a week may be adequate for your child.
Encouraging them to remember, practice, and positively apply speech management techniques is crucial. But, nagging can have detrimental results. Instead, reading aloud, singing, or even playing in the park are great natural ways for your child to utilize their voice in a stress-free environment.
Telling your child “take a deep breath before talking,” or “think about what you want to say first” can, in fact, at times be counterproductive. This advice can make your child more self-conscious, possibly worsening the stuttering. Instead, learning to talk in a way that is easier and more natural, even if the child is stuttering, can help them become less tense and more confident in their speaking skills.
And as your child grows older, don’t be afraid to talk to them about stuttering. Listen to their concerns while explaining that most people experience some degree of disruption in speech from time to time. And it’s not the way you speak that matters but the ideas that you have that are important.