Has your child started stammering suddenly? How you react can make a difference. Here’s how to help a child stop stuttering.
Shortly after his third birthday, my preschooler began struggling with starting off his sentences. “You-you-you-you-you did it!” he would say, for instance. Or “W-w-w-w-why is that?”
My imagination took over, and I panicked at the thought of him with a stammering problem. I didn’t want the same future for my kid, and so I tried to learn why he was stuttering and what we could do about it.
In reading up on stuttering, I learned that:
- Stuttering is often caused by heightened emotions, such as excitement, tiredness or nerves.
- Stuttering in children is normal at this age. Their brains are processing language more quickly than their mouths can keep up.
- Stuttering can last for days, weeks or months.
- Kids don’t realize that they’re stuttering.
My kiddo has gotten used to referring to himself as “you.” After all, when we address him, we say “You…” and he has taken this to mean that “you” refers to himself, rather than any person you’re talking to.
And so we started correcting him: “I ate a banana,” to which he would repeat correctly, “I ate a banana.”
But to his confused mind, he may not have realized just what he was saying that was wrong. I thought correcting him could be contributing to his stutter because he’d do it when he’d say “you.” It’s as if he was thinking about whether this was the right word or not to use.
How to help a child stop stuttering
And so we applied a few techniques to help him cope with his stuttering. We…
- stopped correcting his pronouns and remembered he’ll learn how to address himself and others.
- didn’t interrupt him when he would stutter and instead let him finish his sentence.
- didn’t tell him to stop and take a deep breath and start over.
In essence, we ignored his stutter. I had read that drawing attention to it actually exacerbates and prolongs the problem. In pointing it out, kids then notice that they’re stuttering. And it’s this realization that can weaken their self-confidence even further.
Pretending that all is fine as he says “you” 11 times before continuing his sentence was painful. We listened to him talk as if he had just said it once without throwing a worried glance at each other. We didn’t get frustrated or impatient with him, or let him know that anything was wrong.
And thankfully all this seemed to do the trick. In about four or five days, the stammer just turned right off like a switch. I’m still not sure why he stuttered to begin with. Perhaps he just needed us to stop correcting his pronouns.
Maybe he was having a language burst, his brain formulating sentences he couldn’t vocalize. Or maybe he was just overly excited.
In any case, I’m glad that the problem was short-term. It’s easy to breathe a sigh of relief now that he’s speaking pretty coherently. But during those few days, it took calming down my inner worry wart from jumping to conclusions.
Have your kids stuttered? How long did they struggle with stuttering? What tips worked for you?
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