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Stuttering

What You Can Do to Help a Child Who Stutters

​There are many things you can do that may help a child to talk more smoothly. These strategies will not cure your child’s stuttering (bumpy speech). Instead, they are changes that you can make in your own speech, behaviour, or environment that may help your child during the bumpy times.

Talk slower

  • Children with bumpy speech may benefit from hearing slower speech.

Why could slowing my speaking rate help?

  • Children often stutter more when they are excited, scared, angry or upset or when they are time pressures.
  • Slowing your speech may decrease the sense of competition and time pressure during conversations by slowing down the pace of a conversation.
  • Using a slower rate of speech shows your child that it is okay to take his time.
  • Slower speech may be more calming and relaxing, especially if your child is very excited, frightened, angry, or upset.
  • Your child may or may not slow down his rate of speech when you talk more slowly; however, you may notice that your child stutters less.

How do I slow my speech?

  • Use a slower, relaxed rate of speech by slightly stretching the vowels in words.
    Example: “Wee waant aa cookiee.”
  • Pause between phrases, sentences, and ideas.
    Example: “I went to the store…and I bought some milk...and some bread.”

Use more wait time

How do I use more wait time?

  • Wait about 2 seconds after your child stops talking before you start.
  • Nod your head and smile or use sounds like “mm-hmm” to show that you are listening and interested.

Why could wait time help the stuttering?

  • It makes you wait until your child is finished talking (this way you will not interrupt your child before he or she is finished talking).
  • It lets your child see that it’s okay to take time to put his thoughts into words.
  • It decreases the competition for talk time by slowing down the pace of a conversation
  • It helps make the communication more relaxing.

Look and listen

Look at your child when he is talking and listen with interest. Try to be face to face with your child. When your child’s speech is bumpy, let him know that you are listening or that you have time to listen. Keep a positive expression on your face.

Repeat or paraphrase

Repeat or paraphrase (repeat what he is saying using different words) what your child has said using a slow, relaxed rate of talking.

Encourage taking turns when talking

Reduce competition to talk. Have everyone in the family take turns in conversations. For example at the dinner table give each person a turn to talk without being interrupted.

Adjust the demands for talking when your child’s speech is bumpy
All children have smooth days and bumpy days. Cut the number of times your child needs to talk or read aloud if he’s having a bumpy day. Ask fewer questions or ask questions that your child can answer in a few words. Since children may feel stressed when under pressure to perform for others, don’t make your child talk in front of others. On smooth days give your child more chances to talk.

Acknowledge your child’s trouble with stuttering

If your child knows he stutters or is frustrated about his stuttering, let him know you understand. Help your child say how he feels about the stuttering. You could say, “That was hard for you to say.” or “You really tried hard on that word.” or “Sometimes I get stuck on my words too.” You could use words like “bumpy speech”, “stuttering” or “getting stuck” when talking about stuttering.

Create and follow daily routines

Reduce unnecessary hurry by setting regular routines for your child. Set and follow bedtime and mealtime routines to make sure that your child gets enough rest and nutrition. Children who stutter may stutter more when they are tired, sick, or stressed.

Keep the environment calm

Avoid a rushed environment. Slow down the pace and don’t make schedules too busy. Time pressures make it harder to talk smoothly.

Accept your child’s stuttering

Children often know when people are uncomfortable with them. When your child feels more comfortable and accepted he will be likely to talk more.

Don’t react negatively to your child when he stutters

  • Don’t punish your child for stuttering.
  • Don’t show anger when your child stutters.
  • Don’t blame your child by shaking your head or saying things like “you know better”.
  • Don’t show impatience by finishing sentences, interrupting, sighing, or walking away.

Don’t tell your child to slow down or to take a breath and start again

Model slower speech and use more wait time rather than saying “slow down” or “take a breath and start again”. Children are often frustrated by interruptions when they are trying to communicate.

Instead, think about other strategies that will help calm your child when he or she is excited, angry, frustrated, or upset.​​

Risk Factors

  • A family history of an adult who stutters.
  • Being a boy (girls are more likely to grow out of it).
  • Stuttering that has not gotten a lot better 12 months after the stuttering first began.

When can my child be treated?

  • Your child can be treated as early as age 3. However, children 4 years or older who have been stuttering for more than 1 year with little to no improvement would be treated first.
  • If your child knows that he stutters and you can see that it upsets him, he may be at more risk for it to affect him negatively.

Recovery

Stuttering usually starts between 2 and 5 years of age. Many children grow out of it. Stuttering may go through several cycles, where it starts, stops, and starts again. The longer your child stutters from the time the stuttering first began, the less likely that your child will grow out of it on their own.

If you feel that your child needs therapy, contact a Speech Language Pathologist at your local health centre. You can talk to a Speech Language Pathologist about different treatment choices. You may also want to look for private therapy options.​​​​​

Where to get help

For more information about how speech-language pathologists and audiologists can help, contact:​​

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