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Developing a stutter

Developing a stutter

My little girl is developing a stutter. She is three years old and has started hesitating between words and repeating sounds. I’ve seen the doctor and we are working on techniques to help her. Should I be worried about how this might psychologically affect her?

It is difficult to say how a child might be impacted upon by their stutter however, give your daughter's age, I would highly recommend pursuing a referral to a speech pathologist.

Speech pathologists are trained in many different communication therapy approaches and the Lidcombe Program is a highly successful, well researched early intervention for children who stutter. It is thought to be the most effective for children under the age of 6 years. Some of the tips below might be useful to consider in everyday interactions with your daughter: 

Don’t draw attention to the stutter. We want to encourage your child to talk as much as possible as this is an important part of their development. Therefore, drawing attention to their errors could potentially lower self-esteem and decrease their desire to talk. Instead, reinforce that you are listening and ready, e.g. “****(child’s name), it seems like you have lots of important things to tell me! I am really interested and will be here until you have finished telling me what you want me to know.” In this mini dialogue you have acknowledged that the child is important and that you want to hear what they have to say without explicitly highlighting their stutter. Do not ask your child to stop or slow downs as this can negatively highlight what is happening.

Increase situations in which your child is most fluent. Often, children who stutter can become nervous because they have so many things to say but it’s not coming out how they might expect. This is not the cause, but can become a secondary problem. Therefore, increasing situations in which the child is most fluent is a positive way to increase their talking and therefore self-esteem and learning. This might be during a particularly book or activity. Or, if you are asking questions, let the child know you will ask them a question soon, i.e. “***(child’s name) I am going to ask you a question after Billy has finished talking” – this prepares the child and avoids putting them on the spot.

Model fluent speech. Modelling what the child has said, in a fluent way, not only shows the child you have heard and understood what they have said, but also provides a fluent model of what they have said. This occurs, once again, without explicitly highlighting their stutter. For example; Child:“M-m-m-m-m-y name is Sam” Adult: “Your name is Sam.” Modelling is one of the most powerful tools we can use when teaching children about speech and language.

Provide opportunities for your child to speak without competition and distraction from other children or family members. This allows time for them to finish their sentences and reduces the likelihood of frustration. 

Tiffany Noble

Tiffany Noble

Senior Speech Pathologist, Goodstart Early Learning

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