Help for a child’s stuttering

by: Patty Reed

The DVD in English and Spanish, Stuttering and Your Child: Help for Parents, helps parents detect stuttering and take action toward helping their child and is available at most public libraries. Some libraries have an older video format.

Produced by the nonprofit Stuttering Foundation, the film describes what kinds of stuttering young children may exhibit, how parents can help at home, and the role of a speech pathologist in evaluating and treating children who stutter.

"Stuttering typically begins between the ages of two and five," says Barry Guitar, Ph.D., professor and chair of Communication Sciences at the University of Vermont in Burlington.  "It may begin gradually or suddenly, and many of these children outgrow their disfluencies naturally.  However, if a child continues to stutter for several months, or appears to be frustrated by it, parents should seek assistance."

Guitar appears in the DVD with other nationally recognized experts in stuttering: Peter Ramig, Ph.D., of the University of Colorado at Boulder, Diane Hill, M.A., of Northwestern University, Patricia Zebrowski, Ph.D., of the University of Iowa, and Kristin Chmela, M.A., also of Northwestern University.

These experts address common concerns that parents have about their child, such as how to help the child at home and whether to seek the advice of a speech pathologist.

Strategies parents can use to help reduce stuttering are given throughout the DVD and include reducing the number of questions they ask the child, focusing on taking turns during conversations, and making time to read or talk with the child in a relaxed manner.

"Parents are relieved to discover that they are not alone and that other parents share their concerns," says speech pathologist Kristin Chmela.

"Stuttering remains a mystery to most people," notes Jane Fraser, president of the Stuttering Foundation.  "Watching a young child struggle to speak can be devastating.  This DVD is designed to reassure parents and families that many preschoolers stutter, that they can be helped, and how parents can play a vital role in this process."

Patty Reed is the information specialist at The Stuttering Foundation. Books and DVDs produced by the 65-year-old nonprofit Stuttering Foundation are available free to any public library. A library that will shelve them can contact the Foundation at 1-800-992-9392, e-mail [email protected], or visit www.stutteringhelp.org or www.tartarmudez.org.

7 Tips for talking with your child

  1. Speak with your child in an unhurried way, pausing frequently.
  2. Reduce the number of questions you ask your child.
  3. Use your facial expressions and other body language to convey to your child that you are listening to the content of her message and not to how she's talking.
  4. Set aside a few minutes at a regular time each day when you can give your undivided attention to your child.
  5. Help all members of the family learn to take turns talking and listening.
  6. Observe the way you interact with your child.
  7. Above all, convey that you accept your child as he is.