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What to Do if Your Child Stutters? 7 Key Suggestions from Experts for Parents

Written by Dr Niki Tracy

Stuttering, also known as stammering, is a type of fluency disorder. It is most commonly found in children, especially during the phase of learning to speak, typically between the ages of 2 and 5. While most children naturally overcome stuttering as they grow older, some may continue to stutter into adulthood. This article will delve into the causes of stuttering, the risk groups, treatment methods, and differentiate between true stuttering and pseudo stuttering, concluding with seven key recommendations from experts for parents. 

Causes of Stuttering 

The exact cause of stuttering is not fully understood, but scientists believe it may involve the interaction of multiple factors. These include genetic factors, with about 60% of people who stutter having a family member who also stutters. Additionally, neuroscientific research has found that the areas of the brain involved in language processing in those who stutter may be different from those who do not stutter. Finally, developmental factors may also influence the onset of stuttering, such as children going through unfluent stages during the development of language skills. 

 

Risk Groups for Stuttering  

Stuttering can occur at any age but is most common during childhood. It usually begins when children are learning to speak, roughly between the ages of 2 and 5. Boys are more likely to stutter than girls, with a male-to-female ratio of approximately 4:1. Furthermore, if other family members stutter, children are more likely to develop stuttering. 

 

True Stuttering vs Pseudo Stuttering 

True stuttering is a long-term speech disorder that may persist into adulthood. It may involve the repetition of sounds, syllables, or parts of words, and difficulty moving forward with certain sounds or words. In contrast, pseudo stuttering (also known as developmental stuttering) is a phenomenon naturally occurring as children learn to speak. This may involve the repetition of words or phrases, or a lot of filler words, such as "um" and "uh" during speech. Most children will naturally overcome pseudo stuttering within a few years of learning language. 

 

Treatment Methods for Stuttering 

Professional speech-language pathologists (SLP) will assess a child's language skills and formulate a personalised treatment plan. Treatment may include the following methods: 

  1. Speech therapy: This may involve teaching children fluent speaking skills, such as speaking slowly or using rhythmic speech. 
  2. Cognitive-behavioural therapy: This approach can help children learn to cope with the stress and anxiety caused by stuttering. 
  3. Family counselling: This can help parents learn how to support their child and understand how to change the home environment to promote fluent speech.
 

7 Key Suggestions from Experts for Parents 

  1. Patience and Understanding: When your child stutters, it's most important to show patience and understanding. Let them know you have enough time to listen to them. 
  2. Avoid Interrupting or Finishing Their Sentences: This could increase the child's pressure, making them feel they need to speak faster. 
  3. Speak Slowly and Clearly: A parent's own speech speed and style can influence the child. Speaking slowly and clearly can provide a good model. 
  4. Encourage the Child: Let the child know they can overcome stuttering, and express your confidence in them. 
  5. Provide a Safe, Comfortable Speaking Environment: Avoid too many distractions, such as TV or computer, when the child is speaking. 
  6. Regularly Communicate with Professionals: Regularly consulting with your child's speech therapist can keep you informed about the child's progress and necessary adjustments. 
  7. Educate Yourself: Understanding stuttering can help parents better support their child. 

Stuttering can be a challenge for both parents and children, but with the right understanding and appropriate support, children can learn to manage their stuttering and develop confidence and effective communication skills. 



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References

  1. Heep Hong Society. Stuttering. 9 Jan 2024 Retrieved fromhttps://www.heephong.org/child-development-and-training/useful-advice/language-development-and-social-skills/100047
  2. Mayo Clinic. Stuttering. 9 Jan 2024 Retrieved fromhttps://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/stuttering/symptoms-causes/syc-20353572

Topics: Hong Kong Kids, Paediatrics

Dr Niki Tracy

Dr Niki Tracy

MBBS (HK), MRCPCH (UK), FHKCPaed, FHKAM (Paediatrics)

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