Your child started stuttering and you are concerned. You go to your pediatrician to see what to do. You are reassured that you have nothing to worry about. A weight is lifted off of your shoulders. But 3 months later your worry returns because your child is still stuttering. And 6 months later your worry escalates because your child is now struggling to speak. What happened? Was your pediatrician wrong? The pediatrician's office is usually the first stop parents make to discuss their child's stuttering. Parents are often met with the age old advice of "they'll grow out of it", "let's wait and see", and "don't talk about it." However, some pediatricians may be misinformed when it comes to childhood stuttering. Here are 5 pieces of advice to help dispel common myths and point parents in the right direction:
While up to 80% of children between the ages of 2-5 spontaneously recover from childhood stuttering, approximately 20% don't (Yairi & Ambrose, 1999) (1) . The 20% that persist usually present with some or many risk factors (2). Risk factors include a family history of stuttering, male gender, delayed speech and language development, sensitive temperament (Anderson et. al., 2003) (3) , later age of onset, duration longer than 12 months, and more. The more risk factors a child has and the longer he or she has been stuttering, the more likely it is that their stuttering will persist.
Particularly if a child has been stuttering for more than 6 months, seeking help from a stuttering specialist is recommended to help determine if a child is at risk. In the case where stuttering does persist, a stuttering specialist will ensure that the best interventions are used to support both parent and child. Even for those children whose stuttering does not persist, a stuttering specialist will be able to provide much needed reassurance and counsel parents on how to create fluency-enhancing communicative environments outside the therapy room.
There is often a false notion that stuttering can be "cured" and fluency can be attained with a few sessions of stuttering therapy. The truth is that there is no quick fix for stuttering. Stuttering is much more nuanced and every case is unique. Each child who stutters needs individualized attention and care. Therapeutic interventions for stuttering can span a few sessions to several weeks, months, and in some cases, longer.
If a child is physically struggling while stuttering, and especially if he or she has expressed recognition of that struggle, it is important to provide language to talk about the experience. Providing language such as "that looked like it was difficult to say", or "sometimes my words get stuck too and it feels frustrating" validates the child's experience. It let's them know that they have safe place to share their experiences and emotions. It also paves the way for future self-advocacy. Children who know it's ok to talk about stuttering are better prepared to handle the ups and downs of stuttering and advocate for themselves with confidence.
Parents often times feel guilty that their child stutters and think that they are somehow to blame. Nothing could be further from the truth, and having a support network to affirm this is so important. Receiving support from a stuttering specialist, parent's support group or national organization are some of the many ways that parents can know that they are not to blame, and just as important, know that they are not alone.References
1. Yairi, E., & Ambrose, N. G. (1999). Early childhood stuttering I: Persistency and recovery rates. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 42(5), 1097-1112
2. The Stuttering Foundation. Prevalence. Retrieved from https://www.stutteringhelp.org/prevalence
3. Anderson, J. D., Pellowski, M. W., Conture, E. D., & Kelly, E. M. (2003). Temperamental characteristics of young children who stutter. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, 46, 1221–1233
The American Institute for Stuttering is a leading non-profit organization whose primary mission is to provide universally affordable, state-of-the-art speech therapy to people of all ages who stutter, guidance to their families, and much-needed clinical training to speech professionals wishing to gain expertise in stuttering. Offices are located in New York, NY and Atlanta, GA, and services are also available Online. Our mission extends to advancing public and scholarly understanding of this often misunderstood disorder