I often see very anxious parents walk in with a concern that their child has suddenly started stammering. The onset of this speech difficulty is usually sudden. Over the past few years, the awareness has grown. I have noticed many young children come in, Our youngest clients being between 2.6 years to 3 years old. Stuttering or Stammering is the difficulty in producing smooth speech leading to pauses or repetitions of words. Stuttering is the technical term for Stammering and both mean the same.
The onset of stuttering is between 2 to 4 years of age.
There are many causes for stuttering but it is important to note that usually a child with stuttering does not have any structural deficit in his speech organs. He is usually fluent when he sings songs or shlokas due to the rhythmic pattern of the words and there are periods of very fluent speech lasting over weeks followed by periods of dysfluent speech. Remember that there is no instant cure for stammering!
It is good to consult a speech therapist at the earliest. Speech therapy is very effective for children below 5 years of age. The focus in speech therapy is to slow down the rate of speech of the child and be supportive of the child’s difficulty. A follow up with a speech therapist at regular intervals over a period of 6 months can be very beneficial for the child. After 5 years of age also, therapy can be initiated but it takes a longer period of time and more emotional support from the environment around the child as the child becomes more aware and conscious of his speech difficulty.
As a parent you can foster more fluency in your child’s communication by,
- Not punishing or scolding the child
- Please do not correct and criticize his/ her speech.
- Acknowledge his/her speech difficulties with reassurance and encouragement
- Talk slowly to him/her
- Be patient and do not complete or fill in for the child’s sentences or words. This is important
- Do not ask too many back to back questions during your conversations
- Whenever the child is fluent and clear , encourage him/her by appreciating their speech
If your child is between 2 to 3 years of age and is stammering for over one month or has severe stammering, do consult a experienced pediatric Speech language pathologist who will guide you to take the necessary steps.
Remember that a supportive environment, appropriate feedback and fluency shaping techniques from the Speech Language Pathologist will work like magic for your little schmoozer! :-)