In the United States, over 3 million Americans who stutter. Educators and peers may perceive toddlers who stutter as shy, nervous, anxious, withdrawn, self-conscious, tense, less competent, introverted and insecure.
Speech and language skills develop at a fast pace when children are toddlers. Toddlers learn new words almost every day. Toddlers are learning how to say the sounds in the words they know. They are also learning how to structure sentences in a way that a person understands and gets them what they want.
Toddlers have a lot of information they want to communicate. However, they do not always have the skills to communicate all of the information they want to say to someone. Therefore, it is not uncommon for children between the ages of 2 and 5 to stutter. The stuttering may come and go or last for a couple of weeks. If stuttering disappears and then returns they may be going through another stage of learning language.
Below are ways to help toddlers that stutter and when to refer to a speech language pathologist (SLP). If you have any questions please feel free to contact us directly at 972-608-0416.
Ways to Help Toddlers that Stutter
- Do not make a big deal about the stuttering.
- Remain calm when children stutter. Children become frustrated if you are frustrated.
- Create opportunities for talking that are relaxed, fun, and enjoyable.
- Take the pressure off children. Show them that you are interested in what they are saying and give them time to communicate information.
- Model a slower rate of speech. When caregivers talk fast it puts pressure on children to talk at the same rate of speech. Toddlers do not have the ability to get their thoughts out as fast as an adult.
- Keep things simple. Ask one question at a time. This enables children to focus on one answer. Multiple questions can put pressure on a child to recall all of the questions and communicate the answers.
- Comment on what the child has said rather than asking questions. If a child says “Look at my car” a simple comment (e.g., “Wow, that’s a fast car”) will put less communicative pressure on the child than a question (e.g., “Is it fast?”)
- Develop a successful communication environment without distractions or interruptions. Distractions and interruptions stop the thought process and will make it more difficult for the child to communicate information.
- Be positive about every communication attempt. Making comments like "Slow down," "Stop and take a deep breath," “Say it this way” should not be used. They may be meant to help children, however, they can actually make children more self-conscious. If children become self conscious they typically limit the information they communicate. Children need to communicate to develop their expressive language skills.
- Set up successful talking situations. Don't put pressure on your child to entertain or interact verbally with other people when stuttering becomes a problem. Encourage activities that do not involve a lot of verbal interaction.
Refer to an SLP when a Child:
- Repeats sounds of words such as c-c-c-c-carrot or ca-ca-ca-carrot.
- Holds out sounds in words “mmmmy truck is red.”
- Shows tension in the muscles of the face or body during stuttering moments.
- Substitutes or deletes sounds and is difficult to understand.
- Demonstrates language skills that are above or below their peers. Children with advanced language skills may have trouble communicating all of the information that they know.
- Exhibits hitting or biting. Children may hit or bite because they are frustrated due to not being able to communicate the words they want to say or are afraid of stuttering.
- Has been stuttering longer than 6 months.
- Began stuttering after age 3 ½.
- Has another member in the family that stutters.
Achieve Hearing & Rehabilitation is a speech and hearing clinic with locations in Plano and Dallas, Texas. We offer speech language pathology and audiological services to children and adults of all ages, and resources to help you target your specific speech therapy needs. If you or someone you know demonstrates any signs stuttering, please call us at 972-608-0416 to discuss how Achieve can help.
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