Your child stutters. The best thing you can do.

Loving your children for who they are.

I often receive messages from parents. Their children stutter. Age from 2-6.

Typical situation: repetitions, sound prolongations, reluctance to talk, hesitations, blocking, pointing to things instead of asking for them.

"My daughter started stuttering on certain words. She is 2.5 years old. She never had this before. Is this serious? Shall we go to the doctor's? How to make it stop?"

"My daughter is 6. Had been stuttering from 3. We went to SLT who recommended traditional therapy. We did as advised but stuttering still remains. My heart is bleeding looking at this…"

"My child started stuttering. I am terrified! I feel like crying thinking about my son's future…"

"My son is 3 years old, suddenly developed a stutter. He was fluent before. We are shocked. Clueless as to why it happened or how to help it"

I want to shout out – PLEASE DON'T PANIC! Do not dramatize. Do not catastrophize. Overreacting will not help the problem, but it can exacerbate it. You will not even notice how!

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Parental attitude is critical is the firsts years of a child's life. Children see the world and themselves through the eyes of their parents. Mothers, especially. Whenever she shines and directs her attention, that is what her child sees. However, she reacts, that is how the child reacts.

Parental reactions and emotional state transmit to children. Children are sensitive and receptive. They receive all information indiscriminately. There are no filters of neither logic nor intricate analysis. Everything sent their way is taken literally.

Emotions rules their brain. Emotions are the language of the unconscious. For this very reason, adults can still recall in detail injuries caused to them in childhood or puberty. The emotional change and images of what had happened become imprinted on the memory. And, stay there for life.

A 63-year-old male bitterly recalls, "My younger brother was given a wooden pistol. He was too young to know what it was. But I have been pushed aside and said the toy was not mean from me. Threatened with threatened if I try to take it away ……I was hurt, I still feel hurt…". The situation happened 58 years ago. The intense emotional experience coupled with the burning feeling of unfairness has fixed the incident on the man's memory forever.

Emotions are the language of the unconscious. The language of the soul. Everything that experiences – good or bad - gets stored in the subconscious mind impacting our life. Watch your reactions! You will forget. To you, it is silly nonsense. Your children will remember.

Children interpret the world and themselves in this world through the prism of parental attitudes.

That is if you dramatize events (any events), make a mountain out of a molehill. You can be certain your children will react in precisely in the same way.

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Parental approach and attitudes towards stuttering become part of the children's Belief system.

The belief system entails guiding principles, an unwritten rule that spells what is right and what is wrong. All people's behavior is guided by unique Belief Systems. The guiding is totally unconscious and is unquestionable. We do certain things because we were taught (shown) that this is the only way of doing it. The only right way.

Having been severely reprimanded for stumbling on words, we see stumbling as an undesirable thing to do. So, we begin to hesitate and withdraw. Soon we experience blocks and stumble even more watching displeasure on our parents' faces.

"I reprimanded my girl and said, "speak normally!". Now she stutters, she stops talking and covers her mouth, points to things…."

Do you see what I mean?

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Projecting the positive and supportive image is a must. Panicking and pleading will not ease the problem, but it will make it worse. Your child watches you getting hysterical. You drag them from one doctor to another: speech therapist, neurologist, psychologists, cardiologists, immunologist, psychopathologist. The fact that all this is for their benefit is beyond children's' understanding. Such overactivity scares them. It creates stress and anxiety.

I am the reason my Mum is upset. Something must wrong with me. I am no good. I must be bad. All other kids are normal, their Mums seems happy and me….:( They compare themselves.

This is where low self-esteem comes from. Not knowing your self-worth. "I am unworthy of my Mum's love until I learn to speak well".

People have worth regardless of how they talk and that is what you, as a carrying parent, should promote.

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Overreacting exacerbates the problem. As an adult, you might feel that you are helping your child to recover. You care and do not want the problem to go out of hand. The reality is – you built the foundation for stuttering. It takes root.

Balance is the key. I do not advise you just passively sit there. But not go over the board. Maintain balance. Stay rational.

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One more thing.

Energy flows, where attention goes. What you focus on expands.

Excessive worrying fixates your child's attention to speech. Speech is a natural, spontaneous process. It does not require control. Conscious controlling of natural processes interrupts their flow and creates difficulties.

What would happen if you intentionally put a stick into spokes of your bicycle wheel? You would surely collapse. You cannot continue riding like that.

Speech stumbles. Confidence falls below zero. Anxiety bogs the mind. And so it continues, until one freeze. Brutal block!

Do you want your child to experience this?

Energy flows, where attention goes. What you focus on expands.

Speech. Stumbles. Repetitions. Blocks. Speech.

If only I could say that fluently. If only I would not block.

This turns into obsession. You block – the day is ruined! A child's world is permeated with "the artificial tragedy". Blown out of all proportion. Speech is now associated with negativity and it instills worry.

I'd better be quiet. Too risky. What if I am punished? What if I disappoint my Mum? Hesitant to speak. Approach – avoidance. I want to say it, but I won't.

I'd better be quiet.

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How to help your child and not exacerbate stuttering?

Stuttering is not deliberate. Children are not lazy to speak. They genuinely cannot.

  • Do not draw attention to the speech, divert from it.
  • Do not point out errors. Treat disfluencies as if nothing happened.
  • Let your child finish their sentences. Don't interrupt.
  • Listen patiently. Do not speak FOR your child.
  • Do not overdo on doctors.
  • Ask relatives to stop making comments about the "vocal inadequacy"/incompetence of your child.

WARNING!

!!! If your child experiences seizures, epilepsy, I strongly suggest you seek medical advice from a neurologist. Stuttering might be a superficial symptom of a more serious medical issue. DO NOT DELAY!

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Do you know what excessive worrying is?

Your fear. Don't pass your fears onto your children. Panicking and catastrophizing you will do more harm than good.

Don't forget that at such a young age stuttering can and often is a passing event. It is a temporary development problem that will go on its own withing interventions.

Here is the 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."

The correct parental response is the key to the elimination of stuttering.

Play your cards right. Common sense is your ally when it comes to helping your child normalize their speaking pattern. In not letting stuttering take root and be carried into adulthood and making them calmer and more confident in themselves in the long term.

Observe, monitor but don't jump to hasty conclusions but don't push it.

You child stutters. The best thing you can do is to love them for who they are. Regardless of whether they stammer or not.

Live fluently and stay safe,

Olga Bednarski

Independent stuttering expert