By Dr Swati Vijay
Stuttering, also known as stammering, is a speech disorder that causes frequent problems in fluency and flow of speech. Broadly, stuttering can be classified into three categories: developmental stuttering, neurogenic stuttering, and psychogenic stuttering. According to various research findings, five percent of all children experience stuttering when they start communicating verbally. Of those, 75 percent recover by late childhood, rest of them recover by teenage, but among one percent, it persists even after reaching adulthood.
Being closest to them, parents know their child better than anyone. They can play an instrumental role in helping out the child from speech-related problems. Though it’s a challenging task, continuous efforts may reward them with convincing results. They need to be supportive to their child struggling to develop normal fluency. By implementing the following suggestions, parents can manage as well as overcome their child’s stuttering.
Always listen to your child
Parents should listen to the child’s words or message more attentively rather than showing concerns over her/his stuttering problem. Instead of making any comment on the child’s stuttering, they must facilitate the talk by lending easy words so that the child may complete the sentence with the least interruptions. At a stage when the child is learning to speak and utter emotions, what the kid is saying matters more than how s/he is saying it. The child will feel more relaxed and confident when s/he realises that the message is understood by parents and he could succeed in delivering it. Besides, if a child is not ready to speak in front of guests or relatives, he must not be pressed to recite a poem or crack a joke. For a child, such frequent demands only end up in frustration.
Respond like a fan, not a critic
All kids go through a phase where they face problems in pronouncing some syllables or words. It often happens to children in the age group of two and five. Just like other initial-level learning challenges, they experience difficulties in speaking as well. They take time in drawing a straight line, colouring inside a figure, or even drinking milk from a big cup. Stuttering can be viewed in a similar way as when children start learning to talk; many of them struggle to speak properly. Thereby, children must be appreciated for making efforts in learning and this transition must be a celebration for the entire family.
Spare time for family hobnobbing
The most wholesome entertainment is one where every member of the family may participate happily. A family gathering also brings a smile to a kid’s face and a smiling face is synonymous with a confident mind. So, instead of spending time watching TV shows or playing video games, parents must keep the family engaged in more interactive and social activities such as riddles, fun quizzes, and family chatter. But, the purpose of these activities should be restricted to the child’s participation; the activities should not look like a training session because correcting a child in front of anyone may make him feel embarrassed. And, if the child starts stuttering at any point in time, parents must try to divert the child’s attention by offering anything of her/his interest like toys or chocolates.
Let them choose an easy communication style
To instill confidence in the child and enable her/him to express thoughts comfortably, parents shouldn’t enforce a communication model of their own choice. Instead, they must allow the child to follow a style of her/his choice. If the kid is comfortable speaking in a fast and hurried manner, then parents should not advise for an easier or relaxed way of talking and vice versa. This sort of liberty helps reduce the tension in stuttering children, which they usually feel while communicating with others.
Be patient with your child’s recovery
First of all, parents should be patient enough about the child’s recovery and don’t expect any magical results. Following the above strategies, changes will occur without any doubt, but slowly and gradually. Even parents will take some time to implement these strategies effectively. A positive and optimistic mindset is quintessential to raise the morale of a child suffering from stuttering. Seeking the help of a qualified speech-language pathologist (SLP) is always advisable for better guidance to parents. The SLP will help parents how to help their children communicate clearly and swiftly.
(The writer is a Speech Therapist & Audiologist and Honorary Director, Motion Education Pvt. Ltd.)