A Message for Parents of School-Age Children Who Stutter (page 3)
As children who stutter grow older, and as they learn to deal with their stuttering, they may face a number of new challenges. Fortunately, there is much you can do to help your child through this potentially difficult time. The NSA’s goal is to help you learn that help is available and that you and your child are not alone in facing stuttering.
School-age children are old enough to realize that they did not “grow out of” their early stuttering. In fact, by the time they reach first grade, many children have been stuttering for more than half their lives. With this realization comes a growing awareness of the fact that stuttering may not simply “go away,” as the child may have hoped when he was younger. As the child begins to recognize that stuttering is something that may stay with him throughout his life, he may experience increased frustration and concern about his speech. For this reason, school-age children in particular need the full support of their parents and clinicians, as well as the other people in their environment, to help them understand what they are experiencing.
It is important for children to understand that they will not always stutter in the same way as they do now, and that their stuttering will not always be severe. Indeed, all children who stutter can learn to improve their speech fluency and enhance their ability to communicate effectively, and it is critical that children who stutter maintain a sense of hope and optimism as they learn to effectively cope with stuttering in their lives.
If parents wish to help their children work through their feelings about stuttering, they must have faith in the idea that children’s speech can improve over time. They must also move toward acceptance of the fact that their child stutters so they will not keep searching for the “quick fix” that may seem to help children in the short run, but ultimately contribute to long-term concerns about stuttering. These can be difficult steps for parents to take, and it is often difficult to sort out which treatment options are most beneficial in the long run.
To help parents through this difficult transition, the NSA has developed a network of other parents of children who stutter who have experienced—and come to terms with—the fears and frustrations that you may be feeling now. The NSA also helps to bring children who stutter and their parents through its youth day programs and newsletters. The support you gain from your interactions with other parents who have been where you are now, and who have experienced what you are experiencing now, can help you cope more successfully with your own concerns about your child’s speech. This will help you help your child.
Here are some “key facts” about stuttering in school-age children that you can keep in mind when you are concerned about your child’s speech.
1) Stuttering is not your child’s fault. Stuttering is not something the child is doing on purpose, it’s not something that’s happening to him because he (or you) did something wrong. It is just a characteristic of how he produces speech.
2) Changing speech is hard. Although your child may learn strategies for improving his speech fluency in therapy, it is very difficult to use these strategies all the time. As a parent, you can get a taste for how difficult this task really is by trying to use speaking strategies right alongside your child. This will help you to recognize the success your child is achieving, and it will also help you give him the space he needs to be able to manage his speech over time, rather than looking for the “quick fix” or the “simple solution.”
3) Stuttering varies. Your child will experience different degrees of fluency in different situations, on different days. Sometimes it is easier to talk and sometimes it is harder to talk. When your child is experiencing more stuttering, he may be able to work harder to improve his speech at times, but he also may simply need greater understanding on the part of those in his environment that changing speech is hard to do.
4) Help is available. Although there is no cure for stuttering, children can learn—over time—to improve their speech fluency, their attitudes toward stuttering, and their overall ability to communicate effectively. You can help your child achieve these goals by finding a speech-language pathologist who specializes in stuttering, and by developing a network of support including other children who stutter and their families.
5) Stuttering does not have to hold your child back from achieving any goal he wants to achieve. Today, more than ever, we know how to help children who stutter minimize their concerns about speaking so they can get the most out of their lives, and so their stuttering never holds them back.
By keeping these key facts in mind, you can approach the problem of stuttering with a more open and accepting attitude. In addition to helping you cope more easily with the fact that your child is stuttering, this will also help the child develop health, appropriate attitudes toward his speech and his speaking ability.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Stuttering Association. © 2008 National Stuttering Association.
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