We understand that when your child begins to stammer, it can be a worrying and confusing time for you as a parent.
As their parent, you want to know how best to support them and so we have put together some general support strategies that children who stammer have reported to be useful. As you would expect, what a child finds supportive is individual to each child. Nonetheless, many of the following strategies are beneficial to all children, whether they stammer or not.
- Be patient - It can be frustrating and saddening to hear a child struggling to get their words out. However, hurrying them, interrupting and/or finishing their sentences often makes the child feel frustrated and less confident about being able to express themselves the next time. Instead, let them finish sentences themselves and comment on ‘what’ they have said, not ‘how’ they have said it.
- Avoid correcting a child’s stammer - It is better to use pauses and slow speech yourself rather than tell a child to slow down, relax or breathe.
- Take turns - taking turns in conversations means that everyone gets their chance to talk and people are not interrupted. For children who stammer it can be helpful to take clear and calm turns in conversations so they do not feel rushed and know that their message will be fully heard.
- Build confidence - It can be helpful for a child to focus on their achievements and take the focus away from their stammer.
- General well-being - good sleeping and eating habits are important for everyone. They may have a positive effect on a child's stammer as we know that children can stammer more when they are feeling tired and run-down.
- Take the pressure off talking - You may have noticed there are times when your child stammers less. Some activities can take the pressure off talking, for example walking side by side rather than talking face-to-face, talking whilst you are drawing. Other children may prefer to talk face-to-face with eye contact to feel that you are actively listening so it is important to find what works best for your child.
- Ask your child - If you feel comfortable, sometimes you can ask a child gently: ‘What would you like people to do when your talking is bumpy?’. Please be aware and respect that not all children will know what helps and some will not want to talk about their stammer. However, some children as young as 3 years of age have talked about what it is like to stammer and may have some tips of their own. This can be a great way to let your child know that you care and are listening to their thoughts, feelings and opinions about their stammer and how it is affecting them.
A Speech and Language Therapist will be able to give more detailed and individual strategies for you to use at home and with your child. They will assess the strategies that seem to help your child talk smoothly and find ways for parents, school and friends to use them.