Dysfluent speech, or stuttering, sounds like uneven speech that does not flow smoothly. It is characterized by involuntary repetition, prolongation, or blocking of words or phrases. This differs from childhood preschool dysfluency, which is normal in young children.
Warning signs for dysfluency:
- Repetitions have an irregular rhythm “B-ba-b-ball”
- A short vowel is added to the repetitions “bu-bu-bu-ball” vs. “Ba-ba-ball”
- A sound is held for more than 1 second. “M----------------y ball”
- Your child makes facial expressions, stomps their feet or blinks their eyes to get out the “stuck” word
- Your child becomes aware of or frustrated by their stuttering
- Increased number of repetitions and/or hesitations
- Effortful or strained repetitions and/or hesitations in speech
- Child blocks or appears to be “stuck”
Ways to help prevent stuttering
- Slow down and smooth your own speech when speaking with your child.
- Use pauses to pace conversations.
- Decrease the number of questions, directives and commands.
- Listen well and pay attention to the child, not his or her speech.
- Allow the child to finish his or her own sentences.
- Don’t demand speech from your child if he or she is crying, injured or obviously upset. These situations will almost always disrupt fluency.
- Don’t interrupt him when he is talking or complete his sentences out loud for him. He will resent your interruptions. All he wants is an attentive listener. He shouldn’t worry whether or not you will let him finish.
- Don’t make suggestions about talking in a better way. Comment’s such as, “Slow down,” “Think about what you are going to say,” “Stop and take a deep breath,” “Count to 10” or “Start over” should be eliminated completely. All this advice does is call attention to the false idea that something is wrong with how he talks. It makes him think that his speech is not good enough to please you. Such comments won’t help him stop his nonfluent speech. If anything, they’ll make him uncertain and upset and more likely to develop into a stutterer.
- Take advantage of the days and weeks when he is much more fluent by increasing the opportunities for him to talk. Decrease his need to talk on days when he is more nonfluent than usual. Casually accept his nonfluencies. Then change the subject of shift his attention elsewhere.
- Tell other people not imitate or joke about his nonfluent speech. This includes brothers, sisters, friends, relatives and babysitters. Be very frank about how you want others to react to his nonfluency.
- Never discuss his nonfluency when he can overhear you. There is no need for him to conclude that the way he talks is a general topic for alarm.