Like all other aspects of communication development, a child’s ability to speak fluently develops in stages. Typically, young children may be dysfluent (stutter) when their sentence length increases, as the demands on the articulators (lips, tongue, etc.) rise. Generally, early dysfluencies are repetitions of whole words or phrases of which the child is unaware. No tension or other physical behaviors (blinking, head nodding, etc) are present.
Since issues of fluency can ultimately affect a child’s personal and social life, it is wise to consult with a speech pathologist is you have any concerns. Consult with a speech pathologist if your child: is aware and/or frustrated by his fluency problems, shows tension or other physical behaviors during dysfluent speech, begins to repeat or prolong individual sounds, shuns speaking or his/her ability to communicate is significantly affected.
If you observe your child having difficulties, certain modifications in his/her environment and how you communicate with him/her can help ease the situation. They are:
- Avoid pressuring your child to speak or perform in front of others.
- Avoid calling attention to or expressing concern about his/her speech.
- Avoid asking your child many questions that require long responses.
- Model speech that is slow and smooth.
- Encourage all family members to good listeners and turn takers
- Avoid telling your child to “slow down” his/her speech
- Try to give your child your undivided attention when he/she is speaking
- Live by a schedule so that you are not always in a “rush”
- Save exciting news (birthday party/vacation) until closer to the actual event.
- Participate in quiet activities (story time) if your child is showing increased signs of dysfluencies.
This list is by all means not conclusive. Again, it is important to consult with a speech pathologist if you have any concerns. The professional will be able to determine if your child’s fluency problems are developmental or require treatment.