Very few problems cause children to lose confidence in themselves as stuttering does. Kids, who are famous for questioning everything due to their untamed curiosity, completely stop talking in most cases when this speech impediment sprouts. The main reason for this lack of curiosity, hence the lack of communication, is because of the fact that other kids can often be cruel and inconsiderate. In time, the disfluent kid may also develop social anxiety, anger issues, and become aggressive. After that, even if the stuttering in children and toddlers goes away, other personality traits that were affected because of it may prolong and make life difficult for the disfluent kid.
So how do we tackle such a detrimental health condition and help the affected kid cope with it? For that, we first need to understand what stuttering in children and toddlers actually means.
All toddlers go through a stage where they struggle to pronounce particular syllables or words. It usually happens when the toddler is between the age of two and five. As this is the time they first get to use their ability to speak, it is completely normal for them to experience an interruption in the flow of speech. Eventually, as the child gains proficiency in using the language, they stop stuttering.
But some children stutter well after the age of five. Though there are numerous treatments available to alleviate this hindrance, doctors aren’t exactly sure what causes it. Some believe it is a miscommunication between the brain and the vocal muscles that create sounds, while others say it is genetic. When a kid stutters, it is highly likely that he/she has a close relative who also stutters/stuttered.
As previously mentioned, stuttering in children and toddlers can prolong way into the age of five. While this reason can satisfy the optimist parents among us, it is not enough for everyone. And with a good reason. Because the child who is going to stutter after five years will also stutter before five. So how do you differentiate the temporary one from the actual health condition?
- When a child stutters, you might see some facial movement. It will appear as if the child is tightening his muscles when struggling with a word.
- The child will try to prevent himself from participating in situations that might make him talk.
- Repetition will feel good for a child who struggles with stuttering. So he will repeat whole words, sounds, syllables, and phrases more often. As they repeat these words, which makes children and toddlers feel like their stuttering problem is gone, they do divert from the real problem, hence can’t find a solution for it.
What can be done to help a disfluent child?
- The first thing that should be done is regulating the rate of speech. When speed is minimized, words will not strain the child’s speech. Take a note of all the words you noticed your child is having a hard time with. Then sit with him and urge him to recite sentences in which you used those words. As much as the child needs to be patient, this method requires you to be calm and composed, too.
- Do not correct your child when he is mispronouncing a word. Remember, stuttering happens, not because of the lack of knowledge but due to the misfiring of the brain. Don’t even tell the child to slow down or think before they speak. Just let them talk even if they make mistakes. The problem here is the flow, and you should help the child get that flow; however, you can. And sometimes, you have to tolerate the little errors they make.
- A family gathering can be used beneficially. Instead of resorting to TV or video games, you shall involve the child in family chatter. But keep in mind not to correct your child in front of anyone, and make sure you request your guests to do the same. This will inevitably have a negative effect on their self-confidence.
- When the stuttering intensifies, for any reason, divert the child’s mind to something else. Like, have a toy handy. Make sure you don’t let the child know that you are doing it because of the stuttering. It should seem natural.
- Calm is contagious. When a child struggles, let him recourse or rectify the heckle by himself. Provide your child with a lot of calm, especially when you take him/her outside. When you speak with your child, speak slowly and clearly. Not because they don’t understand, but your child should not feel alone when he speaks slow. This will help the child gain confidence in speaking in front of others, and gradually, they will learn to do it without you.
- For some parents, none of the solutions they try at home will work. Don’t fret. We have numerous speech therapists who specialize in helping disfluent children.
Stuttering is pretty common in children and toddlers, and it is highly unlikely that it will continue into adulthood. So if your child stutters, don’t panic. The problem can be dealt away with effort and consistency.