Some young children may experience speech impediments, especially when they are new to language and learning how to communicate with their thoughts and feelings. Stuttering is one of the most common speech impediments in young children, and, while the precise reasons and mechanisms of stuttering are not fully known, the most common causes are developmental and neurogenic. Here are some tips for parents to help their children overcome their stutter from preschool educators.
Quick Tips to Stop the Stutter
- Slow down: don’t speak so slowly that the child feels different, but be conscious of your speech and tone
- Pause: leave a pause between conversation so that stuttering children don’t feel rushed to speak
- Reduce questions: keep questions to a minimum so children have the ability to focus on one thing
- Encourage conversation: don’t force conversation, let it happen naturally and go along with the flow
In certain situations, mirroring what a person does can make them feel at ease, but this is not the case with stuttering. We may think a child with a speech impediment that sees an adult with the same will be more at ease, but we forget how perceptive children are. If at any point your pretence drops – for example, you start speaking to a colleague normally – the child will lose their trust in you. Instead, it is best to simply engage as you do other children.
Don’t Be Abrupt and Don’t Interrupt
Telling a child to “just stop stuttering” will never work, and will likely make the situation worse. Reacting negatively when a child stutters teaches them that speaking is bad and they should instead remain silent.
Children are often self-conscious and can feel nervous or anxious when speaking, which then results in negative connotations with preschool and the learning environments, or even communicating with family members. It is important to create non-judgemental environments where children don’t feel pressured to speak “correctly”.
Another important way to teach children proper language skills is to allow them to finish their sentences. Children with a speech impediment will often take significantly longer to get to the end of a sentence or to finish a train of thought, but it’s necessary to allow them to do so on their own. Even if you know what they are going to say next, interrupting them or speaking over them prevents them from learning how to engage and communicate properly. It also teaches them that they don’t need to focus on speaking because the adults around them will just do it for them.
Build Language Confidence
Children who have developmental language issues can often just grow out of their speech impediment, and building their language confidence and oral skills is one of the best ways to help with this.
Allowing children, the ability to speak is a necessary part of any preschool agenda, and, often a child with a speech impediment will gain confidence by speaking colloquially or however they feel is natural.
Enforcing formal language, strict diction and proper grammar with preschool-aged children who stutter will not help them. It’s important to let them experiment with communication, and rigid language structures will often make them feel as if they are failing to do something properly.
At Parkland Children’s Academy, we also believe in the importance of praising a child whenever they are able to achieve a task or overcome a hurdle – small affirmations and gentle praise are very beneficial.
Many children who have a speech impediment grow out of it with patience, guidance and informed preschool teachers and parents. However, if your child is struggling to speak or is significantly impeded by their stuttering, it is recommended they see a specialized speech therapist.