Many children stutter, and here’s how to stop stuttering in a young child.
My 4 year old, Sage, liked to pretend that he is a jaguar. When he was a jaguar, he talked in a low, growly voice. He told me his needs in this growly voice, and I understood. He was easier to understand when he was a jaguar than when he was a little boy, and he knew this, because he stuttered.
I discovered that there are several circumstances when stuttering did not occur, no matter what. When Sage talked to the kitty, he used that high-pitched voice that many of us use when we talk to animals or babies. No stuttering. When he was singing, no stuttering. Whispering, too. No stuttering. These are all strategies that he used when he knew that it would be a struggle to get a word out.
“Mom”, he whispered, “I want a glass of milk.”
Of course, sometimes it was the jaguar asking for the milk, in which case guests, if any were over, tended to stare and laugh nervously. More and more frequently, however, he began to use his normal voice to communicate, showing us the enormous strides he made in overcoming his stuttering.
The stuttering crept up on us slowly. It was difficult to tell what was age-appropriate language development and what perhaps wasn’t. When he was three years old, it was impossible to deny that he had a problem. I had to remove him from his home-based day care because the caregiver, well-meaning but uninformed, insisted on ordering him to “Stop that!” and “Just talk right!” when he stuttered.
I took him to the school’s speech pathologist for evaluation. Many school districts provide free language assessment to children three and up, which is a godsend for families who perhaps cannot afford a private evaluation. It turned out that he qualified for their Early Childhood Intervention Program as a speech disabled child, which entitled him to speech therapy twice a week, free of charge, and participation in the Early Childhood Program. This was wonderful, as early intervention is a key component to overcoming speech disorders.
I was immediately given some cardinal rules about stuttering:
Do not draw attention to the child’s stuttering.
Listen quietly to the child. Do not attempt to hurry the child or complete his words or sentences.
Ensure that the child’s environment does not feel rushed or cause the child to feel pressured.
Make sure that the child does not have to compete for your attention when talking.
Be patient. The child will most likely outgrow the stuttering.
These guidelines helped our family deal with Sage’s stuttering, and today, the jaguar has a different voice. Sage’s voice.
It also helps to remember that stuttering almost always goes away. And if it doesn’t, keep in mind that both Winston Churchhill and Marilyn Monroe both stuttered, and apparently without any impediment to their careers or acceptance by society.