Children may develop stuttering between the ages of two and five years. Stuttering is the interruption(s) in the natural flow of speech. It typically begins when a child is rapidly acquiring language skills like constructing longer sentences, learning bigger words, and using them in their speech.
Not every child exhibits symptoms of stuttering, but almost every child shows some natural disfluencies. Normal disfluencies are common and similar to mistakes children make while learning to walk or ride a bicycle.
In the cases of natural speech disfluencies in children, parents may find it helpful to not show their concern. Parents should also slow the rate of their speech down, use smaller words, and shorter sentences while conversing with the child.
It is challenging to tell normal disfluency apart from stuttering during the onset. In many cases, normal disfluency resolves itself in a couple of months. Around 75% of children who stutter recover without any speech therapy, or stuttering treatment.
However, if the disfluency persists for longer than 2 months, it is time for the parents to take initiative. Parents should also consider consulting a speech-language pathologist (SLP) and using modern-age anti-stuttering apps to help them learn how to reduce, manage, or overcome their stutters.
Here in this post, we will discuss top four speech therapy techniques that parents can help children practice at home.
1. Slowed-Down Speech Technique
The aim of this technique –
- Provides a model for your child to emulate slower speaking
- Gives more time to your child so they feel less-rushed
Here’s how parents should carry out the slowed-down speech technique while talking to their kids –
- While talking, make sure to talk slowly like you are plodding through snow.
- Try to introduce more pauses and wait for one beat longer than you otherwise would.
- Slow your speech down while initiating sentences. “Aaaaaas you begin speaking, eeeease your way into the sentence.
- You may reflect your child’s speech at a slower speed. For example, if your child says, “I muh-muh-met a very bih-bih-big dog at the park tuh-tuh-today” you can say, “Oh, so you met a very big dog at the park today?” in a very relaxed, deliberated and calm manner.
2. Reduced Demands Technique
Talking in front of others may already be difficult for kids, especially, if they are aware of their speech disfluency.
You can always make it easier for them by asking fewer questions.
Here’s how to master the reduced demands technique –
- Have a one-on-one time with your children. Give them your full attention. Make sure your child enjoys these interactions.
- Always let your child take the lead in the conversations. Don’t push them into conversations about stuttering.
- Do not rush your child or try to “help” by finishing their sentences. Don’t try to guess what they are trying to say.
- Refrain from asking open-ended questions. Make more comments and observations on matters they want to discuss.
- If you need to ask a question, make sure it is close-ended. For example, instead of asking “What did you have for lunch today?” you can ask, “Did you have a ham-turkey sandwich for lunch today?”
- Always take a brief pause before it’s your turn to talk. This pause can help them feel that they don’t need to hurry up and begin speaking as soon as their listener finishes talking.
- Always listen to your child intently and respond with enthusiasm. That will help them realize that their opinions or observations are important, no matter how many times they stutter while conveying them.
3. Syllable-Timed Speech Technique
Syllable-timed speech technique can help preschoolers reduce their stuttering by 96% when applied correctly. Practicing it for 5 to 10 minutes every day with your child can help them become confident speakers.
These three steps can help you master it –
- While talking, break your words down to syllables. Suppose, you are talking about going for ice cream. It should sound like this – “let. us. go. out. for. ice. cream. I. want. to. have. a. plain. van. illa.”
- Your child may find it unusual or even difficult. So, teach them to tap their leg for each syllable.
- Begin with picture descriptions. Move on to unstructured tasks or everyday conversations once your child gains proficiency.
4. Verbal Responses Technique
The VRT is incredibly beneficial for children up to the age of 6 years. Using verbal responses to a child’s speech can help introduce fluency.
Five easy responses from parents can help children regain confidence and speak smoothly in everyday situations.
Verbal responses for fluency speech –
- Praise them for using bigger words without any disfluency or reduced disfluencies.
- Request them to reevaluate their speech. Asking simple questions like “Was that a little bumpy?” can help your children evaluate their fluency.
- Acknowledge their stutter-free speech with comments like “Hey that was smooth”, “great job buddy. No bumps”.
Verbal responses for intense stuttering –
- Acknowledge their stutter – “that was a little bumpy”. Remember to not show condescension or judgment while sharing your observation.
- Request self-correction – saying, “Could you say that again for me?” or “try saying that one once more” can help. However, if your child reacts negatively, you should refrain from requesting self-correction.
Remember to give positive feedback every day. The rough ratio of positive feedback to feedback for stuttered speech should be 5:1.
Stuttering Treatment For Children – How Long Does It Take To Be Effective?
The steps we have described here are exclusively for the parents to follow. The duration of therapy will depend on your child’s stuttering intensity and age.
It is the first stage of the Lidcombe program that focuses on the parent working with the child directly to improve his/her speech. The first stage continues till the child’s stuttering subsides completely or reaches a significantly low level.
The second stage of the Lidcombe Program involves maintenance. It begins once the first stage ends and may continue for up to a year. The aim of the second stage is to keep the stuttering from recurring. Stage 2 uses fewer parent feedbacks and fewer clinic visits.
With the help from a certified speech-language pathologist or speech therapist, who specializes in stuttering in children, you should be able to work with your child to reduce their stuttering.