Speech and language development in our kids is often a source of stress. From an early age, we start wondering if they are saying enough words or if their pronunciation is going to improve. I am admittedly a worrier but I have spent many hours wondering if my child was on par with his peers when it came to speech and language development. For some parents, stuttering is a concern. I had an opportunity to sit down with Peter Neiman, a Speech and Language Pathologist at EIRMC, and he shared really valuable information regarding stuttering and typical speech development. I am excited to share some of his knowledge with you in hopes that it may reach a mama worried about her kid’s development.
Let’s start with the basics.
Stuttering is defined by Google as a speech disorder in which the flow of speech is disrupted by involuntary repetitions and prolongations of sounds, syllables, words, or phrases as well as involuntary silent pauses or blocks in which the person who stutters is unable to produce sounds. While there are several different types of stutters, some more severe than others, it can become worrisome if your child’s speech seems to be disfluent. While experts have not identified the exact cause of stuttering, it is possible that it is passed on genetically or can be triggered environmentally or emotionally. Stress or trauma may cause a stutter and can certainly exacerbate a disfluency.
So when do you get a professional opinion? First of all, it is important to remember that you have a solid team of professionals at your disposal ANY time you are concerned about your child’s development. Call his or her pediatrician and ask your questions. If necessary, a referral can be given to EIRMC’s Pediatric Therapy office to speak with a Speech-Language Pathologist such as Peter.
As a child grows and begins developing speech and language skills, some disfluency or stuttering is typical.
Generally, a stutter may start to develop around the age of 2 or 3 and many children will outgrow a mild stutter by the age of 5. If a stutter is present more than 10% of the time and is affecting a child’s social interactions, school work, or emotions, early intervention is highly recommended! If understanding is diminished and stuttering happens frequently or intensely, it could affect further speech and language development. Basically, if your child has a stutter that really stands out and is bothersome to him or her, it may be time to call a pro.
Many parents may not know how to help their child with “bumpy speech.” It’s important to stay positive and note that a child who is anxious or self-conscious about stuttering may actually do it even more. No child should be made to feel ashamed of having a stutter, so it should never receive negative consequences. As moms, we should keep calm and remember that most kids grow out of a stutter. Those who don’t will likely have a stutter life-long, but it can definitely be helped!
There are different types of stutters.
A block is when the sound gets completely stuck and usually occurs at the beginning of a word, repetition can occur anywhere in a word, and sometimes, prolongation of a sound may occur. A child may display one or all of these types of stutters. Strategies differ to alleviate the different types of disfluencies. Be aware of patterns and any big changes as they can be a red flag. Another red flag that may be cause to involve a professional would be if a secondary behavior began. Examples of secondary behaviors are facial groping, blinking, ticking, or twitching. If you notice any of these behaviors accompanying a stutter, a call to your doctor is recommended to gain a referral to a professional. Secondary behaviors are often indicators that a stutter is getting worse.
At its root, speech is a marvelous ability. A thought begins in the brain and air is expelled from the diaphragm and lungs. The thought/word then travels through the esophagus and vocal folds after which it is molded in the oral cavity and is then spoken. At any point during this arduous process, a chink in the system could cause a slight disfluency. The human body is a tremendous machine and we often forget many of the steps necessary just to speak a single word.
Try to stay positive and encourage your child to slow down, relax, and simply try again.
There are many systems involved in speech and anxiety won’t do anything to help. A tip Peter recommends when helping children with a stutter is to call it “bumpy speech” that he then helps to “stretch out”. Using something tangible such as a rubber band or playdough may be helpful to illustrate the process of slowing down and stretching out the disfluencies.
If you feel that is time to involve a Speech-Language Pathologist, the process is simple.
After gaining a referral from your pediatrician, you can call (208) 529-7982 to set up a time to meet with one of EIRMC’s great pediatric therapy providers. An evaluation will be scheduled during which your child can bring a book from home so his or her reading can be heard. Some casual conversation will be had and some goals will be set with you so you can know what to expect and how best to help your child at home. Parents are encouraged to attend these appointments to also learn how to help.
Speech and language development does not have to be scary. As moms, we often feel we have to do things alone, but the truth is that there are many people in our corners willing and able to help our children grow to be the very best versions of themselves. We at East Idaho Moms are grateful for the opportunity to spend time with the awesome professionals at EIRMC to share great information with our local community of moms.