Many parents are completely baffled when they hear their toddlers stuttering and stammering when trying to communicate. It may be especially noticeable when the child is overly excited, tired or frustrated, but they may still have difficulty when speaking in a non-agitated state. This should really not give cause for alarm because approximately 5% (that’s one in 20!) of toddlers do go through a stuttering stage which they will probably outgrow quite quickly. If you have a child who has difficulty speaking and you notice an inordinate amount of stuttering the following information may prove to be helpful.
Causes for Stuttering in Small Children
Contrary to popular belief, parents do not cause children to stutter. It would take a very rare, very abusive parent to create that type of reaction in a small child. In fact, most toddlers stammer quite a bit as they are learning to master the intricacies of language. You will probably hear a whole bunch of ‘uh’s’ and ‘ah’s’ along the way. This is quite normal developmentally as a child is still learning to put words together into cohesive thought sequences. However, some children do begin stuttering in the true sense of the word with the initial sound of a word being uttered over and over again until finally the rest of the word pops out. This may be a temporary phase and nothing to be overly concerned with unless the ‘problem’ continues and/or gets worse. At that point the best therapy would be to bring your child to a Speech and Language Therapist (SLT). In other words, it is common for toddlers to stutter when learning to talk.
How to React When a Toddler Stutters
When a toddler is stuttering and having difficulty getting his/her point across the best advice would be don’t react! As a parent we are tempted to ‘fill in the blanks’ and help our children out. We see that they are in some amount of distress when they can’t get their point across and it is our normal reaction to help them out. Parents, be advised that this is one of the worst things you can do. It is better to sit patiently while allowing your child to work it out alone. Don’t try to hurry the process along and by all means don’t act impatient! Keep a relaxed and pleasant look on your face so that your child feels comfortable when talking to you. Remember, any stress can compound the problem so it is the best therapy to help your child stay relaxed when talking. Whether your toddler’s stuttering needs professional therapy or not bear in mind that impatience can often compound the problem.
At-Home Therapy for Toddlers Who Stutter
As mentioned, the best thing to do is just relax in order to give you child the confidence needed to learn the art of communication. Following that, here are some pointers provided by Speech and Language Therapists that can provide at-home therapy and encouragement for toddlers who stutter.
• Talk to your child in slow, even tones of voice. Even though you may be in a hurry, slow down so your child won’t go into overdrive trying to keep up the conversational pace.
• Instead of correcting your toddler, you may simply want to repeat the word or sentence calmly as it should have been stated. Do not imply that the child said it wrong. Just repeat the sentence (or word) as naturally as possible so your toddler can hear what it should sound like.
• Don’t allow anyone to interrupt your child when he or she is having difficulty getting the words out. As a parent it is our responsibility to see that others respect our wishes. You want your child to be comfortable talking to everyone, not just mom and dad, so make sure friends and family allow your child the time to complete his or her thought independently.
• Make time each and every day for calm and leisurely one-on-one time talking to your child. This is your ‘special time’ that is reserved for your toddler so that you can carry on a slow and relaxed conversation. This is the best therapy for a child who stutters because it provides a daily ‘practice session’ while giving you time to spend with your child unencumbered by outside concerns. This is the very best confidence boosting treatment of all!
• Finally, as mentioned above, don’t let frustration show on your face. Stay as relaxed as possible and please ask all family members to do the same. The worst thing you can do is add to the stress your toddler is already experiencing when stuttering and stammering.
As you can see, stress seems to be the number one trigger that either leads to stuttering or exacerbates stuttering if it is already an issue. At-home therapy revolves around helping your toddler communicate in an environment which allows him or her to remain calm with enough time to ‘get it out.’
Think about this for just a moment. How many times have you been rushed by a boss, a spouse or even a child to come up with an answer in a split second? Don’t you find yourself at a loss for words? Now imagine how much more difficult it is for a small child who hasn’t yet mastered the art of language! Some amount of stuttering is normal in toddlers so keep that in mind before assuming that your child will grow up with a speech impediment. If it doesn’t resolve itself naturally as the child nears the end of the ‘toddler stage,’ perhaps it’s time to get some professional therapy. Until then, stay calm and listen to what your child is saying. You just might notice that what you thought to be a stuttering problem is resolving itself quite naturally!