How Stuttering is Treated, and What You Can Do to Help
In this article, we'll talk about some techniques you can use to help your child at home, and discuss the therapeutic treatment for stuttering, should it become necessary.
What You Can Do to Help
You may be considering getting a speech evaluation for your child if he or she is speaking with disfluencies. In the meantime, here are some ways you can begin to help your child at home, which may be all he or she needs.
First, and most important, is to provide a positive speaking model for your child by slowing down your own rate of speech. You should take at least 2 seconds before answering your child's questions to model typical speech pauses. These pauses should be encouraged as they help to minimize stress associated with speaking.
Another extremely helpful thing you can do — and this may be particularly helpful in cases where disfluency is a result of, for example, a physical trauma, such as a broken arm, which can tend precipitate stuttering — is to model correct speech. If your child stutters, for example, when he or she says "Mommy, when's d-d-d-inner gonna be ready?", repeat the question slowly and fluently, i.e. "When's dinner gonna be ready?" Then, answer the question, such as by saying, slowly, "Dinner's going to be in about 10 minutes, sweetie."
Always maintain eye contact with your child, and keep a smile on your face while you are talking together! Additionally, you can tweak some aspects of the home environment to assist your child in reducing his or her disfluencies.
Keep the noise in the home to a minimum when conversing. Shut off the television, lower the volume of the music, and avoid talking over each other. When your child speaks, give him or her adequate time to complete the verbal message, free from interruptions. Don't fill in his or her words, although it may be tempting to "help out" when your child is struggling.
When your child shares his or her ideas with you, provide lots of positive encouragement and praise! If your child stutters or struggles to communicate an idea, try not to show worry on your face. Children are very perceptive and will respond to facial cues you provide, so stay positive no matter how his or her stuttering makes you feel!
Therapeutic Treatment for Stuttering
If your child does need therapy, it will most likely take one of two forms. If the child is completely unaware of his or her disfluencies, then the therapist will most likely use a non-directive, play approach. This means the child will come in and be allowed to play with any toy or game, while the therapist models what we call "slow and easy" talking. There are no verbal demands made at this time. S/he will be asked no questions. The therapist will use comments to obtain information, saying such things as, "I'll bet you had fun in school today."
Without asking explicitly what the child did, this comment will, most of the time, elicit just that kind of reply. The therapist will model "slow, easy talking" throughout the session, and the parents will be counseled each time to do the same thing at home. Gradually, verbal demands will be increased in a structured way, such that the children continue to follow that "slow and easy model" which helps maintain their fluency. If a child is younger than six years old, and there is follow through with this technique at home, then there is an excellent chance of completely fluent speech at the termination of therapy.
If the child is older than six, and is demonstrating oral tension and/or struggling while speaking, it is likely that therapy will be more structured and the child will be directly instructed about how to avoid "bumpy" speech. Treatment will focus on decreasing speech rate, control of breathing and relaxation of muscles. The parents will be involved here too, having to do various speech exercises with their children, such as practicing fluent reading for increasing amounts of time. Regardless of where the disfluent child is at the time that therapy is initiated, one thing is for sure: therapy, if needed, is most effective when it is provided sooner rather than later.