How to Talk to Your Child About Stuttering
As a parent, there is an urge to help your child in whatever way possible. When you are the parent of a child who stutters, that urge to help presents itself in a unique way. There is a common confusion about how to address stuttering with your child. Some questions that parents have shared are “Do they know they’re stuttering?”, “Do they want me to finish their sentence for them?”, and “Is this something they are comfortable discussing?”. If your child has indicated that he/she is not ready to discuss this issue, there are a few actions you can take to ensure you are creating the most comfortable successful environment.
- Reduce your rate of speech and pause often to model an unhurried way of speaking. This may be more useful than telling your child to “slow down," a common remark by parents of children who stutter.
- Create a safe environment for your child to stutter openly.
- Make sure all members of the household react positively to the stuttering (e.g. use your expression to show you are interested in WHAT your child is saying not HOW he/she is saying it).
- Do not make stuttering a taboo subject. Talk about it if your child feels comfortable doing so!
- Provide encouragement. When appropriate, share with your child that it will be okay. Don’t give up!
- Help your child develop constructive work habits and hobbies while providing positive feedback and reinforcement.
- Encourage speaking at home and school.
- Calmly acknowledge the occurrence of any long, effortful, or forceful disfluencies especially if your child indicates concern and/or awareness of these obvious disruptions. A simple statement like “That was hard for you, wasn’t it?” can defuse some of your child’s concern and show him/her that the same lapses do not upset you.
- Try to remove the stigma attached to stuttering, which the child may be experiencing. One way to do this is by occasionally modeling unforced stuttering behaviors so your child begins to realize everyone is disfluent sometimes and that it can be done easily without tension.
- Decrease time pressures. Time pressure is feeling that we have to speak or act quickly. You can reduce time pressure for your child by encouraging family members to take turns and reducing interruptions.
-Eddie Brown, M.A., CCC-SLP