My 3-Year-Old Stutters: What Do I Do?
As parents, our number one concern is our children’s happiness and helping them develop in a way where they are able to reach their full potential. One thing that can hinder this development is finding out that your 3-year- old child stutters. Stuttering can be frustrating and embarrassing for kids of this age and can stop them from doing many things they would otherwise be highly capable of doing.
When you notice that your toddler is beginning to stutter, it can be a scary and overwhelming situation. How can you help? Who can you turn to for help? Which types of therapy are the best and most effective? These and a million other questions run through your head when your toddler stutters, but the good news is, there are solutions out there to help your 3-year-old child overcome this issue and lead a full life, free from the limitations and self-consciousness that comes with stuttering.
What is Stuttering?
Stuttering is defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as, “a speech disorder characterized by the repetition of sounds, syllables, or words; prolongation of sounds; and interruptions in speech known as blocks. An individual who stutters exactly knows what he or she would like to say but has trouble producing a normal flow of speech.” Stuttering can make communicating with people very difficult which, in turn, can affect stutterers’ relationships and quality of life.
It is not uncommon to notice your 3-year-old stuttering. The majority of stuttering happens between the ages of 2 and a half and 5-years-old, while children are developing language skills. It is more prevalent in boys than girls. Somewhere between 5% and 10% of all children will develop in their lifetime and, for the vast majority, it is possible to recover from this and stop stuttering entirely. However, some are at risk for continuing stuttering. It is risky to take the wait-and-see approach.
The exact causes of stuttering are currently unknown. What is known though, is that stuttering is not caused by any preventable parental factors. To have children diagnosed with stuttering to begin treatment and therapy, you need to consult a certified speech pathologist. They must specialize in stuttering treatment.
The Most Effective Treatments
Many pediatricians and online sources will tell you some version of, “don’t worry, they will outgrow it” when talking about the best way to deal with stuttering in three year olds. However, this is of little help as your toddler struggles to communicate, develop their language skills and as both you and your child become more and more frustrated. When your child stutters, you want the best and most effective treatment to help them overcome it.
There is a combination of things you can do for your child to help them deal with, manage and ultimately overcome their stuttering issues. There are things you can do at home to help your child and professional therapy available as well. One of the most effective of these is The Lidcombe Program for Early Childhood Stuttering Intervention.
What is the Lidcombe Program?
The Lidcombe Program for Early Childhood Stuttering Intervention is a program where the overall goal is to train parents to deliver the treatment in their child’s environment on a daily basis. A Lidcombe-trained speech pathologist does this through weekly visits where they provide basic therapy which is individualized for each child and parents can follow up the sessions with activities at home. Lidcombe-trained therapists also provide support, encouragement, and help with family participation and an individually tailored, goal-oriented treatment program. This program is very effective for a three-year-old who stutters.
Tips for Helping Children Who Stutter at Home
In addition to working with a speech pathologist, there are also things you can do on your own as a parent to support your child. Here are a few of the top things you can do on your own.
Maintain eye contact while speaking with your child.
Make sure your child knows you are hearing their message, not just the way it is being conveyed.
Try your best to not interrupt or finish your child’s sentences.
Slow down your rate of speech and pause often while talking to your child. Ask family members to do the same.
Stay away from phrases like, “just slow down” or, “take a deep breath” with your child.
Change the way you ask your child questions. Direct questions can aggravate stuttering by putting them on the spot. Instead, offer open-ended statements that allow them to answer in their own time. For example, instead of “do you like your food?” you can say, “I wonder how that food tastes?”
When you first start noticing your three-year-old stuttering, it can be a very tough thing to figure out how to best start dealing with it. Luckily, early intervention is key and by using these at-home tips and working with a speech pathologist on a program like the Lidcombe Program, you can see big results and allow your child to get back on track with their language and communication skills. For information on these practices and more, contact Lori Melnitsky, at All Island Speech and Stuttering Therapy.