What every parent should know about stuttering

One in every 20 children will stutter for a period of time. Here is what parents need to know if their child starts to have trouble speaking.

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  • According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, 5 percent of all children will go through a period of stuttering. Stuttering is defined by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association as "the prolongation or repetition of syllables or whole words, which is referred to as disfluency." Most children begin stuttering between the ages of 2 and 5, and 75 percent of children who stutter will outgrow it. While your child is going through their stuttering phase, here are some tips that can help his speech.

    • Slow down your rate of speech when talking to your child. Children will often try to imitate their parent's speech, so slowing down and relaxing your own talking can help improve your child's speech.

    • Avoid asking a lot of direct questions. Let your child tell you about his day and interests in his own words, without prompting.

    • Avoid reacting negatively to disfluency. Saying things such as "slow down" or "think about what you want to say" is not helpful. Your child knows exactly what he or she wants to say, but can't get it out. Constantly putting pressure on your child to speak more clearly will make him or her anxious which usually makes stuttering worse.

    • Read rhyming books together frequently, and encourage her to memorize simple rhymes. Recent research suggests that the comfortable flow and rhythmic patterns of rhyming stories help children who stutter learn more relaxed speech patterns.

    • Do not complete his thoughts. It is never polite to finish a stutterer's sentences or complete his thoughts for him, even if it is your own child. Listen to him patiently.

    • Recognize the situations that make your child's speech worse. Many children stutter more when they are very excited, anxious, or overly tired. When your child has had a hard day, lower your expectations.

    • Talk openly about stuttering if she asks. Many young children are unaware of their disfluency, but answer any questions they may have openly and honestly. He needs to know that you support him, regardless of how he speaks.

    • Consider consulting with a speech language pathologist who specializes in fluency disorders. You can usually get a referral from your child's pediatrician, but most professionals recommend waiting 6 months before treatment to see if the child's speech becomes fluent on its own.

  • Unfortunately, researchers know very little about the causes of stuttering, although recent research has identified three distinct stuttering genes, which explains why stuttering tends to run in families. Parents should also understand that there is no cure for stuttering. The goal of most therapy is to increase fluency and teach the children how to function better in society.

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  • The best thing parents can do for a child who stutters is to love him unconditionally. Stay positive, consult with professionals, and encourage your child as she makes her journey through stuttering.

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Heather Hale is a fourth-generation Montanan and mom to three crazy boys.

Website: http://moderatelycrunchy.blogspot.com

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