Stuttering affects approximately 70 million people worldwide (1 % of the world population) . Most children outgrown their stutter by 2-3 years of age however some will persist and continue until adulthood. Speech Therapy assists with improving fluency.
When to be concerned if your child stutters?
Most children go through a period of dysfluency. They are learning to speak, may be exposed to more than one language, or become overly excited to communicate. As a result, repetitions of words, increased rate of speech and difficulty producing words may be noted. This is usually outgrown, however becomes a concern when the severity increases and is noticed more frequently and possibly worsening. This is when you need to be concerned especially if there is a family history of stuttering or a history of other neuro-developmental concerns.
What are some of the signs/ symptoms of stuttering?
- Repeating sounds or words
- Holding breath when speaking/ becoming breathless
- Frustration to speak
- Changes words when speaking during moments of stutter
· Associated physical behaviours such as eye blinks, head turns, clicking fingers, stomping feet or twitching when trying to speak.
Dos and Don’ts for communicating with your child:
1. Do not finish your child’s sentences when they are speaking. Do Allow him time to finish what he/ she wants to say.
2. Do not tell your child “relax” or “slow down”. Do improve your listening and reduce the time pressure during conversations.
3. Do not become impatient with your child. Do relax your facial expression and physical stance when conversing with your child.
Treatment for Stuttering
There are different levels of severity and types of stuttering. A fluency assessment is conducted by a speech therapist to determine the nature and severity of the stuttering, thereafter, a specific treatment plan is done for your child. Every child is different therefore this is individualised. Some forms of treatment include:
- Fluency shaping therapy: Improving fluency and decreasing moments of stuttering.
- Stuttering Modification: Teaching a child how to lessen the severity of the stutter.
- Respiratory Training: Improving breathing and physiological aspects impacting on the stutter.
- Reducing associated motor behaviours that are contributing towards the stutter.
- Counselling on self-esteem and improving social communication.
Speak to a professional if you are concerned for your child’s fluency. Do not “wait and see” if the stutter improves, especially if the symptoms are worsening. Internet “tips and tricks” for improving fluency are false, neither are there “devices” or “medications” to eliminate stuttering. Only speech therapy can improve a stutter.