Last week I was with one of the beautiful mums at my children’s school when she asked in surprise “Chioma so you stammer? I never knew until I read your post”. I smiled as I told her that as a child I had a very bad stutter. Thankfully over the years it had gotten better and though I still stammer sometimes its no where as bad and no longer an issue.
Stuttering or Stammering is a speech impediment that affects millions the world over. As with most things it can range from being mild to severe. There are some situations that make it worse such as talking on the phone or speaking in front of people. Also emotions such as anger or just being tired can make it worse. If your child stammers then there are a few things you can do to help them and not aggravate the situation.
Does your child actually stammer?: First it’s important to establish whether your child actually stammers. This is because most children have a slight repetition of words when they start to speak. This is known as disfluency and clears as the children grow. However, where instead of minor repetition like “My my name is” you hear “my my my my name is” accompanied by what seems like struggling in the facial tensions then your child may be dealing with a stammer.
Be patient: When you have established that your child stammers you may be tempted to try and finish your child’s sentence, don’t. Allow him to finish what he wants to say as stopping him mid-sentence may make him more conscious and end up doing more harm than good. It’s also important you teach your child to be patient as well. Many times when a child is excited and in a hurry to speak then stammering may occur, so afterwards gently remind your child to be a bit more patient when speaking.
Be kind: making fun of your child or saying stuff like “will you shut up and speak properly” is not the way to go. Anything that may make your child feel more conscious of your stutter may end up making it worse. Give this instructions to your domestic helps as well, while kind teasing may not be harmful it’s better not to tease at all.
Listen to your child: A good way to encourage your child is by showing them you care about what they have to say. When they say something rather than criticise their manner of speech show you are interested in the content of their speech.
Therapy: When I was young my Father was my therapist. He was very patient and always allowed me finish my sentences and in the evenings he would ask me to speak into a tape recorder and play it back. He would always encourage to speak clearly and slowly (the faster one speaks the easier it is to stammer in my experience). Slowing down helped me immensely, another form of self therapy is making the sentence in your head before speaking it. Finally, If it is possible find a qualified speech and engage their services .
One on one time: My sessions with my Dad served two purposes, not only did it serve as therapy but it was private time I had with him where I felt extra special and knew my voice was important. This is very important and I know it helped me deal with my stammering. Making a child feel loved, important and cared for will do loads for their confidence whether they stammer or not.
Praise your child when she speaks well: Remember do not make it seem like you are praising your child for not stuttering rather focus more on what she said. An example would be just saying “that was a great speech” and if the child had a particularly tough time speaking then show understanding with sentences like “I know that was tough, good job” this will encourage speech.
Encourage them to speak: A situation where normally chatty child becomes very quiet out of fear from stammering must be discouraged. Encourage your child to talk to you freely so that speech doesn’t become a thing to be afraid of. This helped me a lot while growing up, as I was never told to shut up because I was stammering.
Find resources that help or join a support group: There are a few great websites that have free e-books and articles some are www.stutteringhelp.org/resources , www.stammeringcentre.org , https://www.stammering.org/help-information/topics/school-education . Feel free to contact me about a support group to get more help for children and adults alike. Also find time to browse widely and you will find helpful information. All the best!