What should I do when my child stutters?

The most important thing to do when someone is stuttering is be a good communicator yourself.

  • Keep eye contact and give your child enough time to finish speaking.
  • Try not to fill in words or sentences.
  • Let your child know by your manner and actions that you are listening to what she says-not how she says it.
  • Model wait time-taking two seconds before you answer a child's question-and insert more pauses into your own speech to help reduce speech pressure.

Try not to make remarks like "slow down," "take a deep breath," "relax," or "think about what you're going to say, then say it." We often say these things to children because slowing down, relaxing, or thinking about what we are going to say helps us when we feel like we're having a problem tripping over our words. Stuttering, though, is a different kind of speaking problem and this kind of advice is simply not helpful to someone who stutters.

Should I remind my child to use his stuttering therapy techniques?

Unless your child or the speech-language pathologist specifically asks you to help by reminding, it may be best not to do it.

In therapy, children who stutter learn several different techniques, sometimes called speech tools, to manage their stuttering. However, learning to use these speech tools in different situations (e.g., the classroom, at home, with friends vs. the therapy room) takes considerable time and practice. Many children and teens who stutter do not have the maturity or skill to monitor their speech in all situations. Therefore, it may be unrealistic to expect your child to use her tools in other environments at all times.

What should I do when my child is having a difficult speaking day?

It's always best to check with your child about what he would like you to do on days when talking is more difficult.

Children and teens who stutter vary greatly in how they want their families, teachers, and peers to respond when they are having an especially difficult time talking. One child may prefer that his teacher treat him in the same way as she would any other day, by spontaneously calling on him or asking him to read aloud.

On the other hand, another child may want his teacher to temporarily reduce her expectations for his verbal participation, by calling on him only if his hand is raised or allowing him to take a pass during activities such as round-robin reading.

What should I do when my child interrupts someone else?

Handle interruptions the same way that you would if your child didn't stutter. Children who stutter sometimes interrupt others because it's easier to get speech going while others are talking. We're not sure exactly why it's easier to talk over others, but it may be because less attention is called to the child at the beginning of her turn when stuttering is most likely to occur.

Even though it may be easier to get her speech going by interrupting someone else, it's important for your child to learn the rules for good communication.

What about oral reports and other classroom demands?

There are many things you can do to help make oral reports a positive experience for your child. Together, you and your child can develop a plan, considering factors such as:

  • Order ' whether he wants to be one of the first to present, in the middle, or one of the last to present;
  • Practice opportunities ' ways he can practice that will help him feel more comfortable, such as at home with you, with a friend, or at a speech therapy session;
  • Audience size ' whether to give the oral report in private, in a small group, or in front of the entire class;
  • Other issues ' whether he should be timed, or whether grading criteria should be modified because of his stuttering;
  • Being called on ' whether he feels comfortable being called on at any time in class, only when his hand is raised, or when signaled first by the teacher; and
  • How to talk with his teacher about his preferences for talking in class.

How should I handle teasing?

One of the most painful experiences we can have as a parent is knowing that our child is being teased. Teasing is an experience common to many children, not just those who stutter. The book Sometimes I Just Stutter has great advice on how to handle teasing.

What types of things can I say to encourage my child to talk?

The best way to encourage a child who stutters to talk is to let him know through your words and actions that what he says is important, not the way he says it. Other ways you can encourage the child:

  • Praise him for sharing his ideas;
  • Tell him that stuttering does not bother you;
  • Give him opportunities to talk, such as starting a conversation or asking him for
    his opinion; and,
  • Let him know it' ok with you to stutter.

You may have other general questions about stuttering. We encourage you to contact the speech-language pathologist in your child's school, or contact us for more information. If you are interested in taking your child to a speech-language pathologist who specializes in stuttering, click here for a referral list.

Is there any link between tickling a child and the development of stuttering?

No, tickling may excite a child but does not cause stuttering.

This material was adapted from Stuttering: Straight Talk for Teachers, by L. Scott, C. Guitar, K. Chmela, & W. Murphy.