Around one in 12 children go through a stammering phase at some point in their language development, and researchers still don’t really know what causes it – although they do know that it’s not down to anything parents or carers have or haven’t done.
Most children recover fluent speech without needing help, but for those at risk of ongoing stammering, it’s important to get support early. If you’re worried about your child’s speech, talk to your health visitor who can refer you to a speech therapist.
In the meantime, here are some dos and don’ts to help your child develop fluency:
- Use lots of pauses in your speech. That gives them time to think about what you’re saying
- Talk to them in a relaxed, unhurried way. It’ll help them relax when they’re talking to you
- Look at your child when they’re talking to you, wherever possible. It shows you’re listening and that you’re interested. You’re also showing them you have plenty of time, and that you won’t rush them to finish
- Keep your sentences short and talk about what your child wants to talk about as often as possible
- Notice the times when your child finds talking easier, and look for opportunities to do more of these types of activities during the day
- Talk to the staff at nursery or pre-school about your child’s stammer and how your child would like people to treat them, for example by not finishing off their sentences
- Give your child advice about trying to slow down, breathe, take time to think etc because they may well try to do this in the wrong way. Instead use a really calm way of speaking which hopefully they will copy
- Ask too many questions at once, especially questions that need long or complicated answers. It doesn’t mean you have to speak to them any less – try making comments instead. For example, instead of asking them what they did during the day, you could say: “I heard you played football at nursery”, and then wait for them to tell you more