What causes stuttering?
While your child is in the process of developing language, they may develop a stutter. This stuttering usually begins between the ages of two to six, and may last for six months at a time. If it lasts longer, further intervention may be needed.
There is no one cause for stuttering. Risk factors include
- having a parent, sibling or other family member who stutters
- stuttering after 3 and a half years of age
- delays in language development
- being a boy
- learning disabilities
- emotional or mental health problems
- brain injuries or other severe conditions
It’s important to remember that in most cases, stuttering resolves itself by the time the child enters school. In the meantime, you should remain a source of calm, support and understanding to your child.
- Remember – this is normal. Hesitation and repetition is often a normal part of speech and language development.
- Create a relaxed atmosphere for your child to speak freely.
- Maintain natural eye contact and listen attentively when your child is speaking.
- Speak slowly to your child. They will naturally try and imitate you, which will help decrease the stuttering.
- Take turns to talk. Encourage each person, no matter their age, to listen as well as talk.
- Praise your child every time they finish saying a feared word. Make speaking fun and positive, not a source of fear.
- Be patient and give your child enough time to complete what they are trying to say.
- Spend time playing and talking with your child every day. As they practice and build confidence in their speech, the stutter should be reduced or disappear.
- Be aware of your non-verbal communication. Monitor your facial expressions and body language to make sure you’re not communicating impatience or discomfort while your child is speaking. Social discomfort and anxiety can sometimes make a stutter worse.
- ask too many questions. It’s better to comment on what your child is saying, or provide them with specific choices.
- interrupt when your child stutters. This can throw off their train of thought and cause more anxiety.
- fill in words or complete their sentences when the child is trying to communicate.
- instruct the child to start over when they begin stuttering halfway through a sentence.
- insist that they repeat stuttered words.
- insist that your child speak in front of a group of people.
- correct your child’s speech constantly with instructions like “take a deep breath”, “relax” or “slow down”.
- constantly remind your child to think before speaking.
- draw attention to your child’s stuttering.
- talk about your child’s stuttering with friends or family in front of them.
- hit, scold or punish your child for stuttering.
Other forms of support
Some people who stutter find that their stutter goes away when they are singing or speaking along with other people. This is known as the choral effect. Altered Auditory Feedback technology makes use of this effect by replaying a users voice with a very small delay (Delayed Auditory Feedback or DAF), or altering its pitch (Frequency Altered Feedback or FAF). AAF does not always work for everyone. You can speak to your child’s doctor about whether it’s a good option for them.
There are online apps available designed to help people who stutter, including apps for AAF. Another app that may prove helpful is Stamurai, which helps you practice speech therapy exercises for stuttering.
If a stutter persists, intervention may be needed in the form of speech therapy. A speech therapist will be able to assess the child and provide the therapy they need to improve their speech and boost their self-confidence.
A child who stutters usually improves by the time they start school. Various interventions, including apps, exercises and speech therapy, are available to help your child. Whether or not your child’s stutter improves, it’s important to accept your child as they are, and provide a loving, supportive environment so they can continue learning to speak with confidence.
Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board(2020) Stuttering Do’s and Don’ts [Accessed: 20 October 2020] Available at: https://www.dpcdsb.org/Documents/StutteringDosandDonts.pdf
Familydoctor.org (2018) What Causes Stuttering? [Accessed: 20 October 2020] Available at: https://familydoctor.org/condition/stuttering/
Mary P. (2017) 10 Dos and Don’ts For When Your Pre-School Child Starts to Stutter [Accessed: 20 October 2020] Available at: http://talknua.com/10-dos-and-donts-for-when-your-pre-school-child-starts-to-stutter/
Mary P. (2017) Would you know if your child had a speech problem? [Accessed: 20 October 2020] Available at: http://talknua.com/would-you-know-if-your-child-had-a-speech-problem/
Mayo Clinic (2020) Stuttering – Symptoms and causes [Accessed: 20 October 2020] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/stuttering/symptoms-causes/syc-20353572
National Stuttering Association (2020) Causes Of Stuttering [Accessed: 20 October 2020] Available at: https://westutter.org/causes-of-stuttering/
Raphidah R. (2016) S-S-S-Stutter!!! [Accessed: 20 October 2020] Available at: http://www.myhealth.gov.my/en/stutter/
Siti Suhana M.K. (2016) Battling Stuttering With Technology [Accessed: 20 October 2020] Available at: http://www.myhealth.gov.my/en/battling-stuttering-with-technology/
Speecheasy (2020) Smartphone Apps to Reduce Stuttering [Accessed: 20 October 2020] Available at: https://speecheasy.com/smartphone-apps-reduce-stuttering/
Speechtools (2020) DAF Pro App [Accessed: 20 October 2020] Available at: https://speechtools.co/daf-pro
Stamurai (2020) The Do’s and Dont’s Of Stuttering [Accessed: 20 October 2020] Available at: https://stamurai.com/blog/dos-and-donts-of-stuttering/
Sunway Medical Centre (2020) Speech and Hearing Centre [Accessed: 20 October 2020] Available at: https://www.sunwaymedical.com/centres-of-excellence/speech-hearing-centre
The Stuttering Foundation (2007) 6 Tips for Speaking With Someone Who Stutters [Accessed: 20 October 2020] Available at: https://www.stutteringhelp.org/6-tips-speaking-someone-who-stutters