About every six months, my four-year-old son goes through a two-week-long phase where he stutters almost every time he speaks. Given that he was born with a cleft lip and palate, we were expecting him to have some speech issues. However, we were surprised when the speech therapist told us that this was a common problem for many children. She informed us that he wasn’t having trouble forming words. Instead, he had recently increased his vocabulary, and the stuttering was caused him trying to figure out exactly which words he wanted to use.
His stuttering is always at the beginning of a statement or question. For example, he’ll say, “I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I want some chocolate milk,” or, “Hey-hey-hey-hey-hey-hey, Mom, can you come look at this?” After he finally gets that first word out, the rest of sentence or question comes out just fine.
The way I react to my son’s stuttering directly affects how he reacts to it. Here are some tips that I’ve found to be helpful:
1. Always remain patient
There are times when it’s close to 30 seconds before my son is able to get that first word out. As frustrating as it is for me to stand there and watch him struggle, it’s even more frustrating for him. If I try to help him by guessing what he’s trying to say, he either becomes self-conscious, or his frustration increases dramatically. On the other hand, if I just quietly wait for him to choose his words, his frustration level is noticeably lower.
2. Allow your child to develop his or her own method of coping
When I first noticed my son’s stuttering, around the age of two, I attempted to help him through it by asking him to slow down and think about what he wanted to say. He immediately became self-conscious, covering his mouth every time he spoke. I quickly realized it was better to ignore the stuttering, and let him deal with it on his own. During one phase, he found it helpful to lower his voice to a whisper. Recently, he found shouting to be an effective means of getting his words out.
3. Quietly inform others of child’s stuttering
Over time, I’ve noticed that if I mention my son’s stuttering in front of him, he begins to cover his mouth when he stutters. I have found it helpful to briefly mention the problem to people, out of my son’s earshot, so they don’t comment on it in front of him. In his most recent stuttering phase, where he found shouting to be helpful, I made sure to tell his preschool teachers and daycare workers so they didn’t think he was yelling inappropriately or demonstrating anger.
As a parent, it can be extremely frustrating to sit back and watch your child struggle with their words. However, it is important to remember that your child is probably more frustrated than you are. Displaying patience and understanding will help you both through this temporary phase.
Read more from this contributor:
Telling Your Child to ‘Figure it Out’ is a Good Thing
My child won’t participate!