Parents can help children who stutter

Why is my child stuttering? Will he outgrow it? Does she need professional therapy? Did I cause his stuttering? How can I help?

Information for parents about children and stuttering is now available in a new 16-minute video titled, 7 Tips for Talking with the Child Who Stutters. It can be found at http://www.youtube.com/stutteringfdn.

In the video, four speech-language experts talk about how to promote easier talking as they interact with their preschool-age children. The professionals offer simple tips that parents can begin to use immediately.

"The so-called ‘wait and see’ approach, advocated by some, is an awfully bitter pill for a parent to swallow when they find their child struggling to speak," said Jane Fraser, president of the Stuttering Foundation. "Experience tells us parents want answers immediately. Helping the child while he is young can prevent the teasing and bullying that occur as they get older as those who stutter are often the target of bullies. Every parent wants their child to have a stress-free happy life and early intervention is the key."

The video features some of the world’s leading hands-on therapists working with preschool children who stutter. They include speech-language consultants Frances Cook, MSc, MRCSLT (Hons), Cert CT (Oxford), and Willie Botterill, MSc, MRCSLT, Cert CT; Elaine Kelman, MSc, MRCSLT, Cert CBT, from the Michael Palin Centre for Stammering Children in London; Lisa Scott, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, of The Florida State University’s School of Communication Science and Disorders; and Ellen Kelly, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

"This video will make a real difference for parents who are anxious and feel helpless when their child first begins to stutter," added Fraser. "They often think it is their fault and wonder what they have done wrong. This should help ease their fears while focusing their efforts on doing things that will help the child right away."

Some books and DVDs produced by the 66-year-old nonprofit Stuttering Foundation are available free on the Foundation’s web site under the resources tab and on YouTube. Contact the Foundation at 1-800-992-9392, e-mail info@stutteringhelp.org, or visit www.stutteringhelp.org or www.tartarmudez.org.

The 7 Tips video expands on one of the foundation’s brochures, 7 Tips for Talking with Your Child, and covers the following advice:

1) Reduce the pace. When you speak in a calm, unhurried manner, it not only reduces your child’s anxiety, it also models how to get sentences out fluently.

2) Ask questions one at a time. When you talk with a child who stutters, ask one question at a time rather than bombarding him or her with a series. This makes it easier for the child to form a response and reply clearly.

3) Engage in full listening. When you speak to your child, stop what you are doing and make eye contact to show that you really are paying attention. This makes for better communication, whether the child stutters or not.

4) Take turns. When you’re gathered together, make sure each member of the family has equal time to speak and be heard. Children who stutter find it much easier to talk when there are few interruptions.

5) Build confidence. Praise your child when he or she does something well, and be specific "Thank you for putting your toys away, you are so helpful!" This will help your child to know what he or she did well. This helps the child to feel special and more confident.

6) Schedule special times. Spending even five minutes of one-on-one time together every day, with no distractions, helps build a strong connection with your child and makes him or her feel supported.

7) Remember that normal rules apply. If your child who stutters misbehaves, it’s important to apply family rules just as you would for your other children. Clear, consistent discipline makes children feel more secure.

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