For many children, stuttering is a normal part of language development and something they'll eventually grow out of. For others, their stutter persists into adulthood. If your child is beginning to stutter, here are three ways you can help them with their speech, along with information about when to contact a speech therapist.
1. Model "easy speech" to help your child's stutter
One of the easiest strategies to remember and practice is called "easy speech." For young kids who don't yet seem to be aware of their stutter, we want to support them in an indirect way that doesn't necessarily draw attention to the stutter itself. When you model easy, relaxed speech when talking with your child, you'll notice that their speech will start to imitate yours if you remain consistent.
What does "easy speech" sound like?
Easy speech involves stretching out your words and keeping your rate of speech slow. You can still be animated and use different tones of voice, but your speech should be smooth. It can take some time getting used to this technique and making it the way you naturally speak with your child, so give yourself time, and keep practicing!
2. Take turns in conversation
Another tip is to try and manage conversation in your household. As a child, it can feel tough to have your chance at talking when everyone else has something to say. If your child is showing signs of stuttering and they have siblings, take some opportunities to insist on conversational turn-taking, so everyone gets a chance to talk. The dinner table can be a great place to try this out.
3. Remove conversational and time pressure
We can also reduce conversational pressure when talking with a child who stutters. Try making more comments and observations rather than asking direct questions. Let's take reading together, for example. Instead of asking "What is the bear doing on this page?," try saying "I see the bear eating honey."
Also, take pauses in your own speech when you're responding to questions that your child asks. This will show them that taking your time to respond is OK.
When should you contact a speech therapist about stuttering?
These tips can be helpful and supportive for a child who demonstrates stuttering or disfluencies in their speech. However, there are cases in which speech therapy is the best course of action. If you're concerned about your child's speech, talk with their pediatrician and consider contacting a speech therapist directly for an evaluation.