When your child starts stammering, it can be difficult to know what to do for the best. Here are five tips to support you and your child:
- Listen actively: One of the most important things you can do as a parent or caregiver is to actively listen to your child when they are speaking. This means, when you can, giving them your full attention, maintaining eye contact, and allowing them the time they need to express themselves. It is OK to explain you are busy at that moment but reassure your child that as soon as you are done, you will give time to listen.
- It can be tempting to jump in and finish their sentences or offer advice, but this sometimes can give your child the message that stammering is not OK, which could affect confidence in speaking. Instead, give your child the space to communicate at their own pace and be patient and supportive.
- Be aware of your reaction to stammering: It is natural for parents to want to help their child stop stammering, but reactions such as frustration or impatience, or simply asking them to some how change their talking, can affect confidence and may lead to your child not wanting to say what they want to say. Sometimes saying less is more! Listening to what your child is saying and not focusing on how they are saying it, can help them see that stammering is ok and you are interested in what they have to say, whether they are stammering or not.
- Educate yourself and others: Stammering is a complex disorder that can be misunderstood by others. Educating yourself and others about what stammering is and how it affects your child can help to reduce stigma and create a more supportive environment. Encourage teachers, friends, and family members to learn more about stammering and how they can support your child's communication skills.
- Follow your child’s lead: Stammering can sometimes make it difficult for children to feel confident in their communication skills, however they are also many children who communicate confidently with a stammer. Be aware that you might be concerned about your child’s stammer but your child may be happy to join in and express themselves! Follow your child’s lead. If they seem relaxed and confident in their talking then try and relax too. If your child is showing some frustrations, its ok to acknowledge this. Say something such as “That felt tricky for you, am I right? I’m listening, its ok”.
- Seek professional help if you or your child are concerned: While stammering is a natural part of speech development for many children, it is important to seek professional help if you are concerned about your child's speech. You can get in touch with your local speech and language therapy department and refer your child without having to go through your GP.