Counseling for parents of a child who stutters

Parents learn about language development and how to respond positively to their child's mild stuttering through initial counseling from a pediatrician, family doctor, or speech-language pathologist.

Some degree of stuttering is normal in young children. Most often stuttering in early childhood is known as normal disfluency, and it gradually resolves on its own. As with learning to walk or mastering any new skill, language acquisition includes periods of stumbling or awkwardness. How you react to your child's stuttering can influence whether social and emotional problems develop. Normal disfluency is less likely to become a more permanent condition when a child has healthy self-esteem and can avoid feeling anxious about his or her speech.

Counseling can help you to learn appropriate responses to your child's stuttering, which is important whether the stuttering resolves on its own or not. Counseling can help you learn to react in positive ways to your child's irregular speech patterns. Counselors often suggest ways to:

  • Stay calm and maintain an accepting attitude toward your child. This often includes using positive body language for times when he or she struggles with a word. Criticizing, showing impatience or annoyance, or saying things such as, "Take a breath and slow down!" do not help your child. You want to foster your child's confidence and reduce stress or tension while he or she speaks.
  • Slow down your own speech, and use short and simple sentences. This can be harder than it sounds. Fast-paced lifestyles and habits often affect speech without you being aware. A counselor can guide you in how to help your child focus on one issue at a time, such as by keeping your questions to a minimum during conversations.
  • Give your child some control. Schedule a quiet time each day to talk with your child. This time should not include any speech corrections. It should be a calm period with relaxed conversation. Your child may not even want to talk much during this time, which is fine. Let him or her direct the activities.

Severe stuttering or stuttering that becomes worse or does not improve after 6 weeks of applying initial counseling techniques may require additional treatment. Other approaches, such as exploring your child's feelings about stuttering, may help.

It may also help your child to work with a speech pathologist along with applying techniques you have learned in counseling.

Last Updated: August 25, 2008

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