Since December of 2017, in collaboration with Dori Holte, we have hosted free online information and support groups for parents of children who stutter. These meetings were created to help parents navigate the complexities of childhood stuttering and provide much-needed support during the often confusing experience.
We choose a theme each month. These have included topics such as how to speak openly with children about their speech, and an overview of different treatment approaches. Parent participants (including those in UK) have openly shared their experiences and concerns, and we’ve received incredible feedback about just how much they appreciate the knowledge, understanding, support and validation they’ve gained from these sessions. We are excited to share those insights with you. Below are some of the most common themes in these conversations:
For pre-school children, the major portion of the treatment focus often needs to be on supporting the parent. It is not helpful to anyone if the parent has unaddressed fears and anxieties about their child’s stuttering. While parents do not cause stuttering, there is much they can do to make it better. This is a much better therapy focus than trying to change the way the child is talking at an age when this is simply unrealistic and often quite stress-inducing for all.
Follow Your Instincts
No professional can ever know your child the way that you do. One parent recently enrolled in Lidcombe therapy (an approach that has parents praise fluency and periodically point out stutters while they play with their child). After four sessions, she decided it didn’t feel right but felt compelled to continue to follow the advice of the “professional.” Another parent was told to “wait for her child to grow out of it,” yet her gut told her she needed outside help.
Not All Speech Therapy is Created Equal
There is intense contention in our field regarding how to approach childhood stuttering. Many believe that stuttering therapy is about learning speech techniques such as “turtle talk” and “easy starts.” At AIS, our approach is focused on effective communication, reducing avoidances and physical secondary behaviors, and helping children and their families establish healthy, open environments that are more stutter-friendly. One parent (who herself is a PWS and long-time member of the National Stuttering Association) expressed that she was “blown away” to find out that there are places that approach stuttering in this way.
Some of the Best Ways to Help
Parents are usually very relieved and comforted to learn some of the best ways to help:
- Listen to what the child says, not how he/she says it.
- Avoid praising fluency or asking the child to try again (or slow down or take a breath etc) when he/she stutters.
- Maintain normal eye contact and facial expression whether or not your child is stuttering.
- Whenever possible, convey a relaxed communication style. Many report it very helpful to work on slowing things down and being fully present when speaking with their child.
- Talk openly about stuttering in a way that lets the child know you are supportive and non-judgmental. It is not helpful to pretend the stuttering isn’t there.
Many parents require professional support to achieve these suggestions. Helping parents in this way should be a major focus of therapy for children who stutter.
Join Our Next Conversation
If you are a parent of a child who stutters (or know someone who is), please consider joining the Voice Unearthed Facebook Group and participating in a future online discussion group. If you wish to be added to our mailing list, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The American Institute for Stuttering is a leading non-profit organization whose primary mission is to provide universally affordable, state-of-the-art speech therapy to people of all ages who stutter, guidance to their families, and much-needed clinical training to speech professionals wishing to gain expertise in stuttering. Offices are located in New York, NY and Atlanta, GA, and services are also available Online. Our mission extends to advancing public and scholarly understanding of this often misunderstood disorder.