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Stuttering: Tips for parents


The Advanced Health Network for Speech and Hearing has provided several tips for parents on how to talk to a child that stutters:

  1. Reduce the pace. Instead of verbally telling your child to "slow down" as he is talking, which could throw him off and interrupt his thought process, you can set the pace of the conversation yourself. Speak slowly and take frequent pauses — children need a lot of time to talk, so by speaking in an unhurried way yourself, you are letting them know it's okay. Be sure to let your child finish speaking before you take a turn.
  2. Ask questions. Don't bombard your child with questions. Ask them one at a time and hear the answers out. Try to avoid questions that are unnecessarily complicated or open-ended. For example, asking "What did you do at school today?" is trickier than you'd think. A child has to go through everything he did in a day and pick which things to talk about. Whenever possible, turn your question into a statement.
  3. Listen fully. We don't realize how often we are only half-listening to the people around us. Be sure to make eye contact with your child, and use facial expressions and body language that indicate you are definitely listening. And it's okay to let your child know when you do not have time to listen — it's better than pretending to listen when you are busy with something else.
  4. Take turns. Families tend to talk over each other and interrupt; it's a part of family dynamics. However, this makes it difficult for a child who stutters to voice his thoughts cohesively. Make it a point to let everybody talk. You could pass around an object at the dinner table and whoever is holding it is the speaker, or just say directly whose turn it is to say something. Give everybody an equal amount of time.
  5. Build confidence. Focus on your child's strengths and not just his stuttering. Be sure to praise him for specific things and use descriptive language so he knows exactly what he did well.
  6. Designate special times. Make sure you are giving one-on-one time to your child who stutters — time when the phone, computer and TV are off — even if it's for five minutes each day. It could be as simple as sitting together and talking about the day or reading a book together. But remember to allot this time to each of your children; don't just single out the one who stutters.
  7. Remember, normal rules apply. Lastly, do not treat your child differently just because he or she stutters. Children who stutter should be disciplined in the same way as their other siblings and generally treated the same.