While it can be difficult to acknowledge and accept the fact that one of your own children has a speech or language development issue, doing so at the earliest possible stage is of paramount importance. As every reputable speech therapist in London would agree, the earlier measures are taken to address any such problems, the more effectively they can be addressed.
It is exactly the same with stuttering as it is with all common childhood speech and language development issues. And what’s also the same is the way in which it will always be the parents themselves that play the biggest role of all in assisting their children with their progression and development. Speech and language therapists can certainly help and advise, but given the fact that children spend the vast majority of their time with their parents, it will always be the parents that play the most decisive role.
In terms of speaking to and conversing with children who stutter, most experts agree that it is important to be proactive when it comes to promoting fluency and confidence. With no frame of reference or experience, it can be difficult for parents to know exactly how to approach a stuttering child in a manner that is beneficial, as opposed to counterproductive. Nevertheless, there are certain tried and tested tips, tricks and guidelines which in the vast majority of instances have the potential to be extremely helpful and make a real difference.
Here’s a quick overview of just a few of the most helpful guidelines of all from The Stuttering Foundation, on the subject of helping promote fluency in children who stutter:
1 – Slow Down
First and foremost, it is of critical importance to pay much closer attention than you otherwise may to how fast and hurried your pace of speaking is. Along with speaking somewhat slower than normal, it is also important to pause more frequently and always give your child several seconds after they finish speaking, before you yourself then speak in response. The reason being that they may have more to say, but need additional time to get their words out. It’s often said that advising a stuttering child to slow down themselves can be helpful. However, it is exponentially more helpful and effective if you yourself lead by example and instigate much slower, less hurried and more relaxed conversations.
2 – Listen Well
While it certainly isn’t realistic for you to drop everything you are doing every single time your child speaks, it is nonetheless important to demonstrate that you are giving them your full attention while conversing with them. The reason being that they need to see that you are both interested in what they have to say and are actually understanding what it is they are saying, in order to build any confidence whatsoever in their speech and communication abilities. If at any point your child gets the feeling that what they are saying is simply fading into the background, it will have a serious effect on their confidence.
3 – Ask Questions
Try to remember that there is a difference between bombarding your child with questions just for the sake of it and actually taking an active interest in them. For example, rather than simply asking a string of scripted questions one after the other, think about asking questions with regard to what it is your child is saying at the time. Ask them about school and if they mention one particular subject, expand on this sub-topic by asking them what they like about it, who they like to work with and so on.
4 – Take Turns
It’s also extremely important to work toward a conversation system where there are as few interruptions as possible. Interruptions can be extremely distracting and irritating at the best of times, though can make it almost impossible for a stuttering child to feel their voice is being heard. Turn-taking is much easier when there are just the two of you, but when you involve other family members it requires much more concerted efforts to make it work.
5 – Praise and Positivity
Also of crucial importance is ensuring that when it is clear your child is in any way making efforts to communicate that they are sufficiently praised for doing so. It isn’t simply a case of praising their successes and progress, but instead each and every effort they make on their journey. What’s more, remaining relentlessly positive at all times is also of critical importance, in order to maintain confidence and motivation.
6 – Distractions
Last but not least, it’s also worth remembering that any child of any age will find it difficult to focus and pay attention to any conversation whatsoever if they are surrounded by distractions. From smartphones to tablet PCs to television for computer games and so on, if you really want to have a conversation with your child and help improve their speech and language development, it’s important to ensure all distractions are minimised or removed from the environment.