For children who stutter, summer break can be anything but a vacation. As many as 5 percent of all children stutter during some point in their young lives.
According to Jane Fraser, president of the 64-year-old nonprofit Stuttering Foundation, www.StutteringHelp.org, “Stuttering is a very individualized problem. Some children may actually stutter more during the summer because their structure and routine have been taken away – and that stress can cause more disfluencies.”
Top speech-language pathologists agree. Lisa Scott, Ph.D., of Florida State University, cautions that a break from speech therapy during the summer months may hamper a child’s progress toward more fluent speech.
And for the child not yet in therapy, summer may be a perfect time to begin. In either case, families with children who stutter must learn how to best modify their summer plans to promote more fluent speech. Scott reminds parents that summer vacation is not necessarily stress-free.
“Children are often presented with situations or activities that can increase stuttering. Parents can work on making a child’s activities as stress-free as possible,” Scott said. “Be in tune to what conditions stress your child and change those which could result in more stuttering.”
Things you can do to help a child who stutters:
- Speak with your child in an unhurried way, pausing frequently. Wait a few seconds after your child finishes speaking before you begin to speak. Your own slow, relaxed speech will be far more effective than any criticism or advice such as “slow down” or “try it again slowly.”
- Reduce the number of questions you ask your child. Children speak more freely if they are expressing their own ideas rather than answering an adult’s questions. Instead of asking questions, simply comment on what your child has said, thereby letting him know you heard him.
- Use your facial expressions and other body language to convey to your child that you are listening to the content of her message and not to how she’s talking.
The foundation offers free streaming videos, books, downloadable brochures and a worldwide referral list at www.stutteringhelp.org. Help for parents is also available by calling 800-992-9392.