Thursday, November 23, 2017

How to deal with children who stammer

Sometimes, I get messages asking for tips on dealing with children who stammer. Some of them tell they had little success with speech therapy of their children. On a few occasions, I told them that generally speech therapy was about managing stammering and chances of a complete recovery were high among children. I also told them that we ourselves can help the children in most of the cases. Unfortunately a few of them became more worried after hearing these. Instead of that, let us look at the positives.

Early and correct intervention from our side will help the child a lot, even leading to complete recovery. In fact my kids, son and daughter had also shown some signs of disfluency when they were 2 to 3 years old. Since I myself am a stammerer, I was really worried though my close relatives told these were normal in any child. Since there is a genetic connection to stammering, I wanted to ensure that they did not get it. The following points about dealing with stammering in children are based on my experiences too.

Old habits never die. If the child becomes successful in not making this style of speaking a habit, it leads to a complete recovery. To help the child in this, we should not make the child conscious of the way in which he or she speaks. The parent should not panic and show it on his or her face while dealing with the child. The child should not get a feeling that something is wrong. Let the child speak as if everything is fine. As some people say, stammering is something which happens when we try not to stammer. So let the child continue to speak without struggling to correct the speech.

In a bid to help the child we might advise him or her to slow down. This will help only in making the child conscious of the fact that something is wrong with his speech. Instead of that we should convey the same message by slowing down our own speech. If everybody at home decides to speak slowly, the same will be picked up by the child! 

Similarly allow the child to complete the words even if he or she is struggling. Do not try to complete the words. Be patient and listen carefully by maintaining normal eye contact and without flinching. These would help in not making the child conscious of the issue. Normally the onset of stammering happens when the child is 2 years old. At that time, the child will be most probably in the care of the parents. 

The points mentioned above if practiced, can help the child in coming out of the issue before he or she grows up  and starts interacting with the external world. If child has grown up, the following points in addition to  the above points might help.

Though adults do not face much ridicule, a child who stammers faces this a lot. The other children might see it as something funny and might make comments or laugh at it. If the child has siblings, talk to them and ask them to follow the same points mentioned above. Ask them to behave normally with him or her. If possible do the same with his or her friends too. If the child is of the school going age, please inform the teacher about this. If the child is complaining of children making fun of him, please convey the same to the teacher or take the help of the teacher. 

If the child is discussing about the issues of stammering, be open and calm and make him or her feel that it is okay to stammer. Encourage the child to do whatever he or she likes and appreciate him or her for the achievements. Let the child feel that he or she is just like any other child. If required, take the help of a speech therapist (speech language pathologist) who focusses of fluency issues. 

The confidence gained by the child in a friendly atmosphere at home and outside will surely help him or her in dealing with this situation. Early intervention aimed at not making the child conscious of the issue is the key. A few videos which might be of help are given below.