What is Stuttering Therapy?
In this article, I will discuss the basics of stuttering therapy, also called fluency therapy. This type of therapy is provided by a speech-language pathologist (SLP or speech therapist) for children and adults who stutter. Let’s address a few questions about fluency disorders and therapies.
When should I worry about my child’s stuttering?
It is important to note that most children go through periods of dysfluency or stuttering during their early childhood/preschool years. These dysfluencies can come and go as a child’s speech and language skills develop. They are often seen during periods of rapid language development when a child’s motor system may not be able to keep up with all of the things a child wants to say. It is also important to know that all of us (even as adults) stutter from time to time. Occasional stutters or dysfluencies are nothing to worry about. However, sometimes stuttering becomes more persistent or severe in some children and can cause them to have difficulty communicating with others. These are some risk factors that suggest that a child may be more likely to have a long-term problem with stuttering:
- The child stutters consistently for long periods of time, such as longer than 6 months
- The child has a family history of stuttering (even if the person was able to overcome stuttering with therapy)
- The child stutters on individual sounds or parts of words (B-b-b-b-but that’s my di-di-di-di-nosaur) as opposed to whole words or phrases (I think, I think, I think I might go to the store)
- The child seems to get stuck trying to get a sound out and will either hold out a sound or not make any noise while looking like they are physically struggling to push the sound out.
- The child becomes noticeably upset when unable to communicate due to stuttering.
What happens in stuttering/fluency therapy?
If your child qualifies for speech-language services in the area of fluency, your speech therapist will decide on a therapy technique that is best for your child. There are two major types of fluency therapy:
This type of therapy may be used with a young child who is not yet aware of their stuttering. This therapy focuses on discussing how to talk slowly and what smooth vs. bumpy speech sounds like. In this type of therapy, the therapist will not directly point out that the child is stuttering. Instead, the therapist will have the child identify smooth or bumpy speech in his/her own speech. Since many young children often resolve their stuttering on their own, just making children more aware of smooth vs. bumpy speech can be enough to help guide their speech toward being consistently fluent.
When indirect therapy is not adequate or when a child is more aware that they are stuttering, the therapist will likely take a more direct approach. In this approach, the therapist will talk with the child about stuttering, help the child identify when he/she is stuttering as well as when the therapist does it, and teach the child strategies they can use to prevent or resolve dysfluencies once they happen.
What can I do to help my child’s stuttering at home?
If your child has any of the risk factors listed above, you should speak with your child’s pediatrician or a speech-language pathologist. An SLP will be able to complete a full evaluation and determine if speech therapy is required.
If your child stutters inconsistently and doesn’t have any of the risk factors listed above, the best thing you can do for your child’s stuttering is relax! If you tense up or get worried when your child stutters, he/she will pick up on that and begin to get nervous about the stuttering as well. This will only make it worse. Here are some tips that you can do at home to help your child who is stuttering:
- SLOW DOWN! This includes talking slower to your child as well as slowing down your pace of life. If a child is predisposed to stuttering, a fast-paced lifestyle can make it worse. Make sure you’re taking plenty of times to relax and just talk with your child.
- Don’t finish sentences for your child. If your child is stuttering, wait for him to get through it. If you finish the sentence for your child, it can seem to him like you don’t have time for him to finish it. If this happens, get down at your child’s level, make eye contact, and patiently wait for your child to finish his thought. This will show him that you care about what he has to say and you have time for him to get through it. Just make sure you don’t look scared or anxious when this is happening. Remember, relax!
- If your child becomes distraught about stuttering, let him know that it happens to everyone and that it’s ok. You can even point out in your own speech if you stutter or stumble over words.