My SLP friends have been excited about the awareness created by the Oscar-nominated film The King’s Speech. The film tells the story of how King George VI overcame a debilitating stutter after treatment by the visionary Lionel Logue. I often have parents ask me how to determine whether their child’s stuttering is cause for concern, so I thought I’d write a few thoughts here.
Many children go through a period of normal disfluency as they learn to speak, especially when their thoughts and ideas are racing ahead of what they are able to produce with the motor movements of speech. In my experience, this happens most often when children are 3- or 4-years-old, and they often repeat a syllable once or twice li-li-like this. They may go through several weeks of disfluency, which can come and go. If this lasts for more than 4-6 months, it would be wise to consult with an SLP. Other warning signs include obvious facial tension when speaking, repeating a syllable or full word more than a couple of times, or “blocking” on a word and stopping airflow before saying the word. However, if your child has just recently begun to stumble on his or her words, the following ideas could be tried at home.
1. Speak with your child in a calm, unhurried way.
2. Get down face-to-face with your child to show them you are listening.
3. Use your facial expressions, body posture, or nodding head to show that you are listening. Try to limit the number of questions you ask them as they communicate their thoughts.
4. Practice taking turns during conversation with siblings at the dinner table, rather than everyone speaking at once.
5. Give your child your undivided attention during communication exchanges.
6. Accept your child for who they are, regardless of whether they stutter or not. James Earl Jones, Winston Churchill, Adrian Peterson, Bruce Willis and Carly Simon all stutter(ed).