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Why do kids stammer? It is not possible to exactly pinpoint, but there are certain risk factors associated with it. Generally, boys are more prone than girls to develop stammering. It can begin anytime in their early childhood years between ages 2 to 5 years. This time coincides with when they are growing up in all the developmental domains of physical, social, speech, and mental growth. In the speech domain, that’s when they are trying to convert words into sentences, express their thoughts, ask a lot of questions, experience a range of emotions and at the same time are egocentric, where the whole world revolves around them. If you’re dealing with a stammering child, you must know key things about the issue.
Risk factors which may cause stammering in some children:
- Genetic predisposition, meaning if there is a family history of stammering in the family.
- Other childhood developmental disorders SUC speech delay, autism, down syndrome and global development delay.
- Emotional trauma or changes like loss of a loved one, environmental or situational factors.
- Deficient speech motor skills where the child has difficulty planning the movement of speech structures inside the mouth, mental timing and rhythm of speech, verbal in-coordination.
How can this be fixed?
As soon as a parent or caregiver identifies that a child is having trouble with fluency of talking, and if this persists beyond 3 months , they should reach out to a speech therapist. Let the speech therapist do the assessment and guide the child and parents further. Being consistent in speech therapy sessions will help the child control stammering.
What can parents do at home to help a stammering child?
1. Slow down
Speak slowly and calmly to your child. Use short sentences and simple language. This will slow down the whole pace of the conversation and the child will tune in with the slow speed.
2. Be patient
It is very difficult for the parent to see their child struggle to talk. But do not get overwhelmed and pass on the anxiety to the child.
3. Listen to your child
Get down to your child’s eye level and make him feel heard. Just by listening to your child patiently will help him to process his rhythm of talking better.
4. Focus on WHAT and not HOW
Focus on ‘what’ the child is saying rather than ‘how’. This will make them feel what they are talking is important to us
5. Breathing exercises
Doing simple breathing exercises will help the child in fluency while talking.
Most of the children who stammer struggle with shame, embarrassment, anxiety and a low self esteem. They may also be bullied by their peer group. The child may go into his own shell.
Also read: Help your child combat the stammer with yoga
What is the right behaviour with children who stammer?
1. Do not make them conscious about it
Do not interrupt the child in their conversation and point out to them about how they are talking . This will cause him more anxiety and increase the stammering.
2. Boost self-esteem
What if your kids stammer? Appreciate the child for his other talents or other things that he does nicely. This will help him or her to boost his self esteem.
3. Provide a relaxed environment
Let the child feel relaxed and not pressurized while talking to you, encourage him to talk on topics of his interest
4. Have a one-on-one time with your child
Give your child undivided attention for 5 minutes daily. This will make him feel loved and wanted.
The most important thing to remember is that a child who stutters knows exactly what he wants to say, it just might take him a little longer.