Steps to Overcome Stuttering in Children

20 February 2022

“I w-w-w-want a drink” This may look cute, but if left untreated, a child can experience permanent stuttering.

According to Hello Doctor, stuttering is a speech disorder when a person repeats parts of words, making it difficult for him or her to state something clearly.

This disorder is also accompanied by behaviours such as fast blinking eyes and trembling or tremor in the mouth.

Among children between the ages of two and five, repetition of either one or two words in a sentence can occur.

Family history, learning development and emotional stress are among the criteria that causes children to face this problem.

As a result, stuttering will inevitably affect the quality of the child’s communication as they find it difficult to clearly explain desires or emotions to other individuals.

Most frighteningly, is that the child is likely to be a victim of bullying, ridicule or teasing from friends who think that stuttering is a funny thing.

Although there are some influential and famous individuals such as Issac Newton, George Washington and Stephen Hawking who can be idolised, but such a situation must be prevented.

No obvious cause

Sunway Medical Centre’s Speech and Language, Nawal Mohd Shafie said stuttering cannot be classified as a health problem.

She explains that it is a difficulty in pronunciation and fluency. Children aged three years and above are more likely to face permanent stuttering if they do not seek proper treatment.

However, there isn’t a clear cause for stuttering. But those with family members who stutter may also have the condition.

From one angle, stuttering individuals are believed to have abnormalities in brain function when they speak. Essentially, stuttering is divided into three parts, namely neurogenic stuttering (nerve disorders), psychogenic (emotional stress) and developmental (learning).

Neurogenic stuttering results from brain nerve disorders due to injury or health problems, while psychogenic occurs due to psychological trauma. Developmental often occurs in children under the age of five which gradually recovers over time.

Nawal said stuttering is not something unusual and it can be managed earlier.

“This is because it is a part of the language development process and is considered normal if a child's speech is not smooth.

“They are learning various rules of language use, including word development that is happening rapidly.

“Indirectly, the child will try to improve their speech and change for the better,” she said, adding that boys are more likely to face this issue than girls.

Treatment and support

Nawal suggests parents to seek treatment by seeing a speech and language therapist, especially if it involves children who evidently stutter, refuse to speak, rebel when asked to ‘open their mouths’ or have a hereditary history.

Parents, teachers and people around the child are encouraged to support the child going through this experience. As stuttering is not only related to the child’s growth, it also involves their emotions and learning.

“In order to improve children's fluency, parents and teachers are encouraged not to show excessive reactions such as rushing or urging children to finish their words immediately.

“Give the child the opportunity to take turns speaking,” she explained.

Nawal also stressed that caregivers should not be too hasty to interrupt the child as it will cause them to refuse to talk and interact with others.

“Take time to talk to them to help them speak fluently, thus increasing their confidence.

“At the same time, don't be ashamed to chat with your own children in front of other people,” she said.

Tips to help stuttering children

  1. Practice the child's ability to speak regularly

In addition to seeing a specialist, parents or guardians are advised to train the child's ability to speak at home.

Dealing with a stuttering child does require a lot of patience. So listen carefully and fairly to what they say.

Don't let children know you are distracted or impatient when they are talking.

  1. Talk or chat calmly

In addition to listening to what is being said, try to chat with them calmly and slowly.

Make sure that the atmosphere in the house is not too noisy, cosy and comfortable. Ask other family members to also support the child who stutters.

  1. Avoid certain words

When your child is stuttering, you may want to say, ‘speak slowly’ or ‘try to speak clearly’. Yes, the intention is good, but you are asking them to avoid the word so that the child does not lose confidence.

  1. Invite the child to read

This method can educate children to breathe well when talking. Although it may be difficult at first, you need to be patient and slowly help them.

Parents may also take the time to chat alone with the child so they feel more comfortable and confident.

Source: Sinar Harian