**The article is based on true parental accounts. Some details were altered to preserve the anonymity of informants.
Since I began speaking publicly about my experience of stuttering, I received many letters from PWS’s and parents of children who stutter.
Being a parent myself, I get very worried when I read some of the letters in which parents vividly describe the “prescribed” methods they employ in their pursuit to «cure» their children’s stuttering. Some accounts are truly disturbing, they literally knock me out of balance for days.
I came up with this short guide to help you help your children better.
Dear parents of children who stutter,
This message is for you. I ask your forgiveness in advance for I intend to be very direct.
Dads never write. Mums always do. They write asking me to make their kids fluent. It took me a while to come to this unfortunate conclusion but now it is clear that Mums require just as much treatment, or even more than they children do. The utter misunderstanding of the problem coupled with incorrect behavioural responses create the perfect setting for development and subsequent etching of stuttering on a child’s psyche.
As a result of your well-meaning but maladaptive behavioural responses, chances of eliminating stuttering are often nullified regardless of what mega-professionals, uber-accredited SLT’s you might seek help from.
You are the main perpetrator, or rather your incorrect behavioural response. After this follow home atmosphere, patenting style, degree of closeness to a child, emotional warmth etc.
I am a Mum to a trilingual child, a daughter, 4 y.o. Emotional, temperamental, she is eager to say all and at once. At times she speaks so fast, she begins to jabber when words merge together and become unintelligible. Children such as my daughter are at higher risk of developing stuttering. Add to the mix the fact that myself, her Mum, is a former stutterer (i.e. direct hereditary link). Knowing how to respond is like knowing Fire Safety – critically important! One misstep and it might all go up in flames! Have you ever seen how rapidly fire spreads across a field of dry grass? Stuttering is no different.
Now, I invite you to closely examine a typical reaction of a typical parent, typically a Mum, when she spots first signs of developmental or temporary stuttering.
In despair, she drags her child from one doctor’s office to another– neurologist, psychologist, cardiologist, immunologist, psychopathologist. The doctors, I suppose, for lack of a better solution chose to “authoritatively” prescribe psychotropic medication i.e. Phenibut and beta-blockers?
Read more about side-effects of Phenibut by clicking here.
Some of you, reduced to extremity, turn to the alternative medicine, namely healers that “prescribe” urine therapy. When all else fails, this Mum self-prescribes psychotropic medication, namely, Phenibut.
But who am I to blame you?
After all, that is your decision entirely. In your attempt to restore your child’s fluency, parents often overlook the very serious consequences that might transpire after taking psychotropic medications at an early age.
Your child’s speech improves (temporarily), and that is all that matters to you.
Soon after it becomes obvious that all your attempts have been in vain and speech of your child deteriorates. Other comorbid conditions might also come in at this stage and exacerbate the situating i.e. stranger anxiety, bruxism, toilet anxiety, depression, skin picking etc.
At this point, you are about to lose your composure, you jump out of your skin shouting:
“Stop fooling around. Speak properly!”
Your hyper-motivation to help joins forces with the group of well-wishing relatives and friends who might offer “helpful” advice, sympathize, or/and allude to a possible mental delay.
The situation reaches the boiling point. You cannot take it any longer. Emotional pressure unavoidably impacts on your child’s mental wellbeing. As a parent, I wholeheartedly share your concerns and appreciate you motivation to help. There is nothing we, as parents, want more than to see our children healthy, happy and enjoying life.
But please understand the frenzied running about from one doctor’s office to another won’t solve the problem, it won’t cure stuttering, but on the contrary, will only intensify the problem and warrant it’s further progression.
And all because, you place too much unnecessary emphasis on speaking. Children are very good at reading parental reactions, especially those of displeasure and anger. Afraid of provoking you or/and being punished your child does he/her best to speak well… Their attention becomes anxiously fixated on speaking. They attempt to control breathing, tense up and rehearse before speaking as if trying to avoid an imminent punishment. Consequently, they will experience anxiety and hesitation before speaking – “what, if I say won’t be able to say that word, what if I stumble, my Mum might be cross with me, get upset. I don’t want to upset my Mummy.”
Energy flows, where attention goes. What you focus on expands. Your fearful thoughts charged by feelings manifest in your reality in the form of a stuttered speech.
Stuttering, as I have said in my previous articles, is an acquired reaction propelled by learned pattern behaviours. And, to untie this knot one needs to look within a person’s psyche, within the mind.
You could do a lot for your child if you would just simply stop emphasising their speech errors, mispronunciations, rushing them into speaking when they hesitate, demanding confidence when they are naturally timid.
Simply let them be who they are, and be patient. This equally applies to your facial expression. Children are brilliant face readers. They can easily discern emotional nuances of facial expressions and body language.
You might not be aware, but children take everything they see, hear and experience at face value, hence the environment they grow up in impacts them so strongly. Intricate logical deductions are beyond them. Emotions that rule children’s’ brain at this stage directly influence their emotional state, the intensity of emotional response/feedback, as well as how they interpret external events,relate to themselves and others. This sheds some light on to parental questioning – “why does my son\daughter react so angrily to my remarks on her speaking, or in fact, any questioning that might feel uncomfortable to them.
This is how children think:
“Mum is upset with me again – I must be a bad boy/girl., there was something I wanted to say, but my Mum stopped me, she shouted – I’d better be quiet next time”. We frequently visit doctors – “Am I sick? Specialist school – “I am not like other “normal” kids, I must be very unwell”.
Stuttering is NOT a disease. Stuttering 90% originates in your psychology, namely in your mind and only 10% physiology that is manifested as a tangible, observable phenomenon i.e. stuttered speech.
Remember the iceberg analogy of stuttering? That is exactly what it depicts : 90% psychology, 10% physiology.
The great news of the matter is that every child has a perfect chance of “exiting” the problem before they enter puberty.
Yes-yes, I can hear you say it…..SLT’s try to convince you that the opposite is true, that there is no way out. Stuttering is a bug one cannot recover from, ever.
And you cannot blame them after all this is how they were trained to view it, blindly following even though accredited but obsolete order of things. Doesn’t mind if it’s ineffective.
Ignorance is the main «bug» of society. We unquestionably believe something just because the authority tells us it is true. As if hypnotised, we obediently follow the crowd. I believe there is no safety or reassurance in following the crowd.
Ignorance is the major “bug” of society, not stuttering.
I suggest we look around, open your mind and try to form our own independent opinion. Be prepared to the element of surprise and Soon enough you will notice that things are not as they seem…
Stuttering is not a speech problem per se. Even though it looks and sounds like one. Taking stuttering for a mere speech problem is mass foolery created by our brain as the mind only believes/accepts as the truth what it can observe.
There is neither brain malfunction, nor a mutated gene. Otherwise, how would you explain sudden glimpses of fluency when PWS’s talk to children, animals, to themselves or they sing. If there was a tangible cause to stuttering or a defected gene, we would be stuttering non-stop regardless of the situation we are in. Our thoughts would, probably, be stuttered too.
Please don’t liken stuttering to epilepsy, ticks and other “legitimately” serious conditions as they have no relation to stuttering!
Stuttering is alike deep inner disharmony which is fuelled by an obsessive fixation and desire not to stutter breaks fluency and fluidity of your speech.
Take care of your children without worrying, without panicking. Loosen your grasp! Let go of incessant control!
Frequent visits to SLT’s, controlled breathing, emphasis on speech, vocal gymnastics, exercises on slow onset…. All these actions only exacerbate the problem.
How to react when your child begins to show the first sight of disfluency?
Here is what you need to know if you don’t want your child’s developmental or temporary stuttering to take root and turn into permanent stuttering.
The correct parental response is the key to ensuring stuttering won’t become ingrained. Of course, you cannot control over everything that happens to a child outside of home i.e. school. But you and your home as a parent must embody/provide a source of unconditional support and protection for your child. Children must be certain, that you won’t judge or pull a grimace of displeasure but will listen and show your unconditional support.
Parental influence is very powerful. Children see the world through the eyes of their parents. Become «comfortable» to your child, be available and emotionally responsive to her/his needs.
IMPORTANT: I repeat. Don’t emphasise, don’t draw attention to speech, don’t finish sentences, don’t speak for your child, don’t criticise, don’t laugh but listen patiently what your child tries to communicate to you.
And, please do it Calmly!
And, God forbid, don’t punish or admonish your child for his/her speech imperfection, errors, disfluency or hesitation.
Their stuttering is not deliberate. Your child isn’t “lazy” to speak, they just genuinely cannot.
Just as Important! Raise awareness about your new “safety rules” amongst those closest to your child. Provide them with the same “Safety Rules” I have just shared with you. This will help ensure that all comments about “vocal inadequacy”/incompetence cease.
Few words about genetical propensity/heredity in stuttering.
Nobody is born with stuttering. Stuttering as a fixated reaction with a set of associated safety behaviours develops later in life i.e. in childhood, adolescence.
This is all down to your inherited temperament. Here genes play the key role and impact you directly. If your parents are highly sensitive, prone to excessive unfounded worrying, impatient, take everything to heart, then there is a high probability that as a child of your parents you have inherited the same set of traits that now define your temperament.
Temperament is the given, you cannot alter it.
For example, being a natural worrier (or a warrior 😊), I will always be a worrier. I can learn copying strategies to mitigate my anxious predisposition, learn to live with it but, in essence, I will always remain extra sensitive. This is the way I am.
Heightened sensitivity only predisposes a child to the development of stuttering but doesn’t guarantee they will suffer. This will depend upon external environmental factors, such as parental attitudes and reactions, parenting style, degree of closeness with a child and many other contributing factors.
Added to this is the excessive fixation on speaking and Voila! It won’t be long until you notice the first signs of hesitation and stuttering.
If stuttering in your family, like a tradition, travels from generation to generation, pay close attention to how did you parents react to your stuttering, or their stuttering, how do they relate to it in daily life. Do they discuss it as an imperfection? An infliction? The curse of your family? Do you they prematurely fear of stuttering being passed on down to generations i.e. children, grandchildren?
You might be surprised to find out that it is not stuttering itself, but rather an incorrect response and reactions to it that are passed down from your forefathers, your parents, and then to children and grandchildren.
Break the “tradition”, replace stereotypical reactions and behaviours.
Parents! Start with yourselves! Change the pattern of your behaviour. Take care of your kids without excessive worrying, without panic. By doing this you will make the life of your child significantly easier, and as a result, stuttering will leave as unexpectedly as it appeared.
Still not convinced? Here is the official statistics:
“Between 75-80% of all children who begin stuttering will stop within 12 to 24 months without speech therapy. If your child has been stuttering longer than 6 months, they may be less likely to outgrow it on their own.”
Think carefully about everything you learned in this article. Don’t jump to hasty conclusions. Just consider it. Don’t go reciting accredited SLT’s and research. Try to detach from the situation and get a wider “birds-eye view” on stuttering. Make your own observations and you will see surely improvements for yourself.
I wish you and your children good health and unconditional happiness.
Much love and light,