Children develop speech problems often early in life, but it’s not always clear from the start. They can speak fluently for years, and then all of a sudden, wham. It’s there.
Often it starts with a slight speech impediment, and then it grows into a bigger problem.
Fortunately, we have good speech therapists and that should be the first port of call, but they can’t be expected to do everything alone. They’ll involve you in the process and give you good pointers to help your child develop a natural speaking fluency.
It takes time, it takes involvement, it takes co-ordination and you can expect it to take a great deal of patience too.
To ensure your child has the best chance of outgrowing the stutter, the following tips will prove helpful.
1. Slow your own speech down
It’s amazing how the way you speak can influence the conversations you have with your child. When you slow your own speech down, they’ll feel more comfortable speaking slower. The opposite usually leads to children trying to match the pace of your speech, which is when a stutter can creep in.
The more it crops up, it’s a confidence knock every time. Use your own influence to control the speed you speak at and that will set the pace for the conversation.
Never rush speech.
2. When you hear it, don’t knock it
The more attention drawn to a speech problem, the more conscious your child will be about it. They’ll feel judged for not being able to speak right. The simplest way to avoid that is not to knock on the door of dwindling self-esteem. Something to never do is force them to repeat words or sentences until they’re able to say it. They’ll run kicking and screaming because to them… it feels an impossible test they’re never going to pass. Give it time.
3. Body language is better than anything you say
There will be times when your kid hits a blocker, which is when they just can’t get the word out. This is when parents feel the need to step in. You don’t need to end sentences on the assumption that you’re helping, because frankly it doesn’t help.
What does help is when they you show understanding and not expressing frustration through your body language. Always have your body language express your interest in what they are saying, without judgment of how they are saying it.
4. Cooperation helps from everyone
Starting with a speech therapist working with the child, they will provide guidance to parents. However, you can’t stop communication there because there are so many other people your child will need to speak to. Family members, classroom assistants, teachers, friends’ parents, dance teachers, sports coaches and many others.
Any advice given to assist the child is best shared with others so that everyone is on the same page. Otherwise, the time spent on speech correction techniques isn’t being maximised.
5. Stop with the criticism and instruct others to do the same
Criticisms can be a major setback as can interrupting and fast paced speech. Granted there will be times when they are super excited to tell you something and when that is the case, it may be more helpful to express calm, let them catch their breath and then wait for them to speak.
It’s much easier to speak when it’s free will and not a coaxed effort. Sometimes you just have to wait, let it play out, avoid criticisms and pointing out the obvious.
Image courtesy of worldartsme.com.