Do you feel like your child might have a stuttering problem? How can you tell the difference between normal developmental disfluencies and a real fluency disorder? The Stuttering Foundation has TONS of resources you can check out to learn the difference. Take a look at this article, and then observe your child's speech to get an idea of what might be going on. If you are still unsure, consult a speech therapist and get your child evaluated.
Here are some tips on helping your child's stuttering difficulties in his/her natural home environment. Since speech therapy services are usually given between 2-3 times a week, it is crucial that you are working on these strategies at home as well. Carrying over strategies is essential for helping your child generalize to their natural environment and, ultimately, progress.
1. SLOW, EASY, SMOOTH SPEECH
What is slow, easy, smooth speech? Exactly what it sounds like! Teach your child to speak at a slower rate, with easy onsets (no hard stops or contacts), and smoothly (eliminate as many "bumps" as possible). It is very important that your child understands the difference between slow, easy, smooth speech, and fast, hard, bumpy speech. If they understand how to identify and even "model" the differences, they will be much more aware of their speech and how to use the correct model. Start by modeling the different types of speech and having your child identify the correct type of speech you're using. Then, you can quiz your child by having them model each type as well, using different vocabulary words. Once they have mastered this, you can practice using slow, easy, smooth speech during fun games, functional activities, and even designate 20 minutes a day of ONLY using slow, easy, smooth speech.
2. REDUCING SECONDARY BEHAVIORS
Secondary behaviors are the behaviors your child uses to avoid bumpy speech, or stuttering. It is often caused by tension in the body or anxiety during stuttering. Some examples include blinking, hand movements/gestures, irregular breathing patterns, etc. To help alleviate this, you must make your child aware of which secondary behaviors they are using. The first step is ALWAYS awareness. Have your child engage in a speaking activity (i.e. games, answering questions, imitating words, reading passages or sentences). Then, ask your child to relax his/her body as much as possible and try not to move while speaking. Following each sentence or word, ask if they felt any part of their body moving. You can print a blank picture of a shape of a body, and have your child mark the part that moved. Then, have them repeat the activity while eliminating this movement. Over time, this will allow your child to become more aware of their secondary behaviors and will help him/her to decrease tension and anxiety.
3. DEALING WITH EMOTIONS: SELF-RATING SPEECH
At the beginning and end of each speech therapy session, I like to ask the child how they are feeling: happy, sad, mad, or normal. I post an emoticon in every corner of the room and ask them to run to the corner that identifies how they are feeling. You can print any simple emotions chart and ask your child to point to how they are feeling before you practice slow, easy, smooth speech. Get your child comfortable with letting you know how they feel. Emotions are one of the most important components of stuttering. You can also have your child rate how they thought they did on a simple 3-point scale to increase awareness and feel in tune with their progress.
-Use increased pause time and reduced time pressure. Wait a few seconds while turn taking in conversations with your child to allow them to finish their idea. Never interrupt them.
-Use strategic words to reduce pressure during communication. Ask less questions. Use words such as "maybe", "I bet", "I wonder", "It sounds like".
-Rephrasing while modeling slow, easy, smooth speech. For example, if your child says "I want to have a cookie" with bumpy speech, you can respond with "Oh, you want to have a cookie!" while modeling slow, easy, smooth speech.
Now you have some of the simple tools to help your child carryover the skills they've learned in speech therapy to the home setting! Remember, maintaining these skills and practicing as much as possible will help your child's progress significantly. Happy practicing!