What is stuttering?
The speech of a child with a stutter may raise concerns for parents and educators. A stutter is a speech disorder characterized by disruptions in the normal flow of speech. Parents as well as educators and speech-language pathologists are part of the team working with a child with a stutter. First, let’s discuss some types of disfluencies or stuttering characteristics, and then the variability of stuttering. Finally, some tips for the parents as well as resources for the school professionals are provided.
types of disfluencies
The most common types of disfluencies or stuttering behaviors are repetitions, prolongations, revisions, and interjections.
- Repetitions – li-li-li-like this. Repetitions can be be of sounds, syllables, words, phrases, etc.
- Prolongations – mmmmmy. Prolongations are holding onto a sound and stretching it out for a period of time.
- Revisions – I see the-I want the. Revisions are changing the word or phrase.
- Interjections – I um need that. Interjections are adding a sound or a word
- Not finishing – It was a …I don’t know.
Stuttering can vary in severity, ranging from mild to severer. It can also fluctuate over time, with some people experiencing periods of increased or decreased stuttering. The exact causes of stuttering are not fully understood, but a combination of genetic and environmental factors is believed to play a role.
Stuttering often begins in childhood, typically between the ages of 2 and 5 when a child is learning to speak. For many individuals, stuttering improves or resolves spontaneously during childhood. However, for some people, stuttering may persist into adolescence and adulthood.
5 Simple tips for a child who stutters
- Try to give the child your undivided attention. Let the child know, indirectly, that he/she has your attention for however long the child wants to speak.
- Don’t ask the child to slow down, think about what he/she is trying to say, or take a deep breath. This well-meaning but misguided advice implies that there is something wrong with the child’s talking.
- Find fluent times in the child’s day. Are there times when the child is more fluent? Take a look at those times. What environmental factors seem to be aiding the child’s fluency?
- Acknowledge that sometimes talking is hard. It can be difficult to find the words we want to use and hard to express ourselves. This is true of speakers of any age.
- Focus on the whole child. Your child is so much more than his/her speech. Build self-confidence by praising the wonderful qualities that he/she possesses.
Therapy for Children who Stutter
After a thorough evaluation by a speech-language pathologist, therapy may be recommended for a young child by the IEP Team. Therapy may focus on learning more about talking and the speech mechanism, decreasing tension and struggle behaviors, and using effective communication strategies such as phrasing and pausing. For young children, therapy should be fun and functional with an emphasis on accepting all communication efforts. At this age, I like to mix talking about fluency with games, paper and pencil tasks, and coloring activities.
The American Speech Language and Hearing Association has more information about stuttering and disfluency for parents and educators.
The Stuttering Foundation also has valuable and timely information for parents and educators.
The Stuttering Therapy Resources website has many wonderful handouts for families. This site also has resources in several language other than English and Spanish.
Resources for speech-Language Pathologists
Self-Advocacy for Students Who Stutter
For older children, a fluency check-in is a useful tool to find out how the students is feeling about their speech and any upcoming stressful situations for them. Here is one that I use with my students.
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