Your preschool-aged child exhibits “stutter-like” behaviors (word repetitions, part-word repetitions, and prolongations). He is working with a speech therapist to control his disfluencies, but as a parent you want to contribute to his success. What can you do to help your child speak more fluently? More comfortably? More confidently? The answer is a lot! Below are 6 ideas parents can use to help their child become a more successful communicator.
6 Ways To Help Your Child With A Stutter:
It may sound simple, but in our fast-paced lives many people find it hard to simply listen. Allow your child the time he needs to finish his thoughts. Instead of finishing your child’s sentences, positively reinforce when he finishes a sentence, thought, or idea on his own. This will promote healthy, natural conversational skills, rather than leading your child to believe his conversational partner will finish his thoughts.
Example: When your child gets “stuck” on a word, continue listening without interrupting. Allow him to finish, then comment with a positive remark about what he said, rather than the fact that he said it.
2. TAKE TURNS
Yes, this is something we teach our children all the time. Taking turns is just as important when it comes to speech! When your child has a hard time waiting his turn to speak, say, “I know you have something to say, but it’s my turn to talk right now. When I’m finished it will be your turn.”
Example: Books are a great way to encourage turn-taking. Let one child tell you about the first page, then switch. Each child has the chance to make up his part of the story without being interrupted!
3. USE EYE CONTACT
Eye contact is a very important component to our communication success. Using eye contact appropriately sends the message that we are listening, interested, and engaged in the conversation. If your child uses appropriate eye contact, his peers will be less likely to interrupt and finish his thoughts when he gets “stuck”.
Example: Model great eye contact while you are speaking (be a good example for your child) and listening (communicate to your child that you are interested in what he is saying)!
Speaking slowly and using pauses will help to decrease the tension your child may feel while speaking. Modeling this type of relaxed language will provide a good example for your child to follow. Simply use a relaxed tone, add more pauses, and decrease your rate of speech to a slower (but still natural) level.
Example: Model thinking time by pausing and saying, “hmmm I think I would like to play this game first.”
Feeling stressed, tired, and keeping a fast-paced lifestyle may trigger a spike in your child’s disfluencies. Although these feelings are never completely avoidable, you can make adjustments to control these triggers. Keeping your child’s routine consistent and predictable is extremely important! A not so jam-packed schedule that is predictable and consistent will decrease your child’s stress by removing the “unknown” and helping him to feel a sense of control. As a parent, you can make a conscious effort to discuss the day’s activities. This will help your child transition more easily from one activity to another (another time that is often difficult for children who stutter).
Example: Make a visual schedule with pictures to represent the day’s activities. Discuss the schedule the night before so the child knows what to expect when he wakes up!
6. SHOW YOUR SUPPORT
Speaking should be a task that is enjoyable for your child. In order to help reinforce your child’s willingness to use verbal language and communicate consistently, smile and praise your child for simply attempting to communicate (even if he does so with disfluent speech).
Example: “I’m so glad you told me about that game. I love listening to you tell me about your day!”