Exciting Times and Kids Who Stutter             by Connie Dugan

 

Children who stutter may have more trouble with speech during happy and exciting times.   Visits with grandparents, birthday and holiday parties, and other occasions filled with positive stress may trigger more stuttering. There are several things you can do to help your child during these events.

 

If you notice that your child is having a difficult time with speech, set up the situation for minimum amount of talking.  You might work on a puzzle, offer a coloring book, or read a story.

 

One of the most powerful things you can do to promote easier talking is to slow down the pace of conversational turn taking.  If your child asks a question, show your attention through facial expression while waiting a full second to respond.  The dialogue might look like this:

 

Child:       I want to go outside!        Grandpa: ...(1 second)...Great idea.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Let’s get our jackets.

 

Children often stutter less or more easily during spontaneous utterances than “demand speech.”   A child is likely to be more disfluent when answering a question

( “What did you see at the zoo?” ) than when she responds to a comment “I hear you went to the zoo….) 

 

Try to limit your wh-questions.  For example, when pointing to a picture in a book, a question like “What do you you call this?” might be replaced by a comment like  This is funny....”  This allows the child to respond at his own pace and use words and sentence structure he can call up easily.

 

It may be especially stressful for a child to give “command performances” such as reciting a nursery rhyme or the alphabet.

Mentioning that a child knows the alphabet might prompt him to say it spontaneously rather that put him “on the spot.”

There are some things family members should avoid doing.  Don’t tell the child to “Slow down.” This advice does not help and may feel like scolding.  If you want your child to speak more slowly, model speaking more slowly yourself.  Mister Rogers is an example of adult whose communication style facilitates easier talking by a young child.

 

If your preschooler is taking part in the Lidcombe Program of Early Stuttering Intervention (LP) one parent may be coaching this child to change speech.  This parent will have been trained and will be following a carefully organized therapy. Other adults should not be offering the praise or corrections.

 

If a child expresses frustration about getting her words out, it is good to acknowledge it just as you would any other trouble.  You might say something like “It’s okay, you’re just learning to talk.”  Pretending that stuttering is not occurring may communicate to the child that it is so scary even adults cannot mention it.  If your child fell and hurt his knee or had trouble opening a box you would acknowledge it and reassure him.  These same common sense rules apply to stuttering. 

 

The word “stuttering” need not be avoided.  The child probably knows it.  However for little children “bumpy” or “sticky” speech may be more meaningful to the child and more comfortable for you.

 

Children are resilient.  Enjoy your special occasion. Always show you child through words and actions that you care about what he has to say more that how he says it.

 

Constance Dugan is a Board Recognized Specialist in Stuttering and Fluency Disorders.  Her private practice is in Chicago.   

www.conniedugan.com