5 Ways to Support Your Child Who Stutters
If your child stutters, there’s a lot you can do to support them. Let’s explore some techniques you can use to help your child communicate with confidence and ease. When you use these strategies, your child will know you’re in their corner, and that you love and accept them for who they are!
One of the first things to understand is that speech therapy isn’t intended to “fix” a stutter. Stuttering is a diverse way of speaking. Speech therapy can help people who stutter make positive changes in their communication skills and their mindset. But there is no cure for stuttering.
As a parent or caregiver, the way you talk about stuttering matters. Try to avoid using words like “bad,” “fix,” or “cure.” Your beliefs about stuttering can have a real impact on the way your child sees themselves.
Stuttering is a deeply misunderstood condition. Many people who stutter have been taught to avoid stuttering at all costs, so they may avoid situations in which they have to talk. That can be as simple as not attending a party, to as life-changing as avoiding an entire type of career.
But you can help shape a different experience for your child! You can provide a safe, affirming, and empowering space for them to grow and thrive.
Here are 5 strategies you can start using at home with your child today. And remember this: Although it may be hard sometimes, try to listen to what your child is saying instead of how they’re saying it. Your child needs to know that you care about what they have to say.
First, show your child that you’re listening to them. You can do this through body language like eye contact, head nods, and gestures. Be fully present in the interaction.
If you can’t give your child your full attention, you can give them a raincheck: “I can’t wait to hear about your school day, and I’m ready to listen as soon as I’m done cooking." It might even be helpful to set aside a few minutes at the same time each day to give your child your undivided attention.
It’s part of a parent’s job to offer advice! But don’t tell your child to speak more slowly or suggest that they start over or “take a deep breath.” That kind of advice usually isn’t helpful.
Instead of interrupting each other, encourage everyone in the family to take turns talking. The dinner table is a great place to practice this! Children find it much easier to speak when there are fewer interruptions. Trying to make their voice heard over others will increase their tension and make it harder for them to talk.
It also helps to avoid asking your child too many questions, especially if they’re 2 to 5 years old. For young kids, it can feel like a lot of pressure to be answering questions all the time: “What is that?” “What did you find?” Instead, try rephrasing questions into comments. For example, if you’re reading together, instead of asking "What is the boy doing on this page?," try saying, "I see the boy climbing a tree."
Finally, avoid commenting on your child’s speech when they don’t stutter. When you compliment your child for smooth speech, it can lead them to view stuttering as “bad.” They may connect their sense of self-worth to not stuttering. Remember, stuttering is a form of verbal diversity–it’s part of who your child is. How they speak may not always be in their control.
Your child is more than their stutter. They are an entire human being, with likes and dislikes, a unique personality, and their own dreams. Try not to hyperfocus on your child’s speech, and don’t pressure them to speak a certain way. The goal is for your child to feel freedom to speak with confidence and self-acceptance. You can play a big role in helping them get there.