About five percent of the children suffer from stuttering at some point in their lives. I am deliberately using this in brackets, because the child often does not notice that much. Eighty percent of the children will then automatically go over.
However, it is a shock to many parents when their child begins to stutter. It is therefore not surprising that they want to make efforts to help their child. Although that is easy to understand, it is not always wise. That well-meant help can also make it worse. To understand that properly, you first need to know better what stuttering really is.
What is stuttering?
When we talk about stuttering, we generally talk about two kinds of stuttering: primary and secondary stuttering:
Primary stuttering: what many people do not know is that stuttering adults do not always stutter. If they are alone or when they speak to children or animals, there is often little or no mention of it. At most, there are slight hitches that can hardly be described as "stuttering".
Secondary stuttering: this species only occurs when adults are close to others. They are worried about their speech and are going to put extra emphasis on that. That is precisely why speaking does not work as well. After all, speech does not need any attention at all!
You could compare it to the fable of the centipede. This can run fine, until the ant asks him: how do you do that? Walking with a thousand legs? As soon as he starts thinking about it, walking becomes worse and worse.
What does this mean for stuttering in children? In short, you could say that in many children primary stuttering develops. The speech falters a bit because it is often not fully developed enough. Simplistically you could say that the brain can think faster than the mouth can speak.
Primary stuttering can develop when this is seen as a major problem. This can come from the parents, but also from the child.
If it comes from the parents, this is generally well intended. They want to teach the child to speak and therefore give a lot of attention to speaking. Unconsciously they realize that the child starts to think more about his speech. Something that is not the intention.
When it comes from children, it often has to do with the child's nature or certain ways of thinking. Sensitive children will be more concerned about their speech and will try to avoid talking situations. They feel ashamed and faster when they fail.
Can you then do nothing against stuttering children?
The explanation above might give you the idea that you can do absolutely nothing to prevent the development of secondary stuttering. Fortunately that is not true. Below we give some tips for dealing with children who show primary stuttering:
Do not start immediately with therapy or with worry. The stuttering will in many cases be gone after a week.
Preferably do not send the child to a speech therapist. As parents you can do a lot yourself and once a child goes to a therapist, it will think that it has a problem, which will only reinforce the symptoms.
Speak openly. Although it seems reasonable on the basis of the above information to keep quiet about the stuttering, it often does not work well. A child feels unconscious that you are worried. Therefore, you should rather tell that it is very normal for children to have occasional problems with speaking and make it clear that this will automatically turn over again.
Sing songs with the child at bedtime, before eating or even when standing up. Singing is very similar to natural speech and will also strengthen it.
Take the rest for yourself and try to speak with something elongated vowels. You do not have to tell your child that you are doing this, he or she will automatically take over. This is how speech therapy gets, without knowing it yourself.
When your child develops primary stuttering, it is therefore wise to pay attention to it. However, it is important to do so in the right way, to be sure that you do not encourage secondary stuttering.
For more information you can look at the site of the Hausdorfer institute.