Because it is so obvious to the ear, we can hear when a child is stuttering. But do we know what causes this communication disorder that can bring with it untold stress to both the sufferer and to those trying to communicate with him?
Well medical science has no definite answers for this but there are some clues that are believed to play strong roles in this disorder. However, it’s also often seen as a normal developmental stage of the child who invariably outgrows it in time.
In many cases, children who stutter have a different method of processing speech and language to their peers. Basically, stuttering can be a result of processing speech and language in a different area of the brain to those who do not suffer from the disorder. This in no way suggests there is harm to the brain or any type of mental illness, it’s just that the brain performs this task differently to other children.
Could be a hereditary glitch
If the development of speech and language is delayed then this, too, could cause the stuttering. It can also be due to a hereditary factor, and in the cases of children whose development is pushed too hard, by somewhat overzealous parents.
Mostly boys tend to stutter rather than girls, although there seems to be no valid reason for this.
If you have a child who stutters you may notice that some days his stuttering is less obvious than others. Take note of this as you will probably be able to determine that the worse days are when he is tired or not feeling 100% physically. Here you can help him by giving him nap times and even rest times. If it means cancelling a play group or a trip to the grocery store with him, cancel it – the shop will still be open the next day.
Nudging him along
So many of us try to act as if everything is normal when a child in our company starts to stammer or stutter, believing he needs to get the word out on his own. This is not really the best avenue to take. It’s far more beneficial to the child to gently nudge him along and in this way squash any confusion he may have about stuttering being a normal way of speech. Don’t say the word for him and then let him continue with his conversation, but rather say the word and encourage him to repeat it until he gets it right. But here again, know where to draw the line without becoming overzealous.
How often have we been amazed to discover that famous singers, politicians and even public speakers who do their thing with the utmost proficiency actually stutter or stammer when they talk?
This is not uncommon, so although your toddler’s vocabulary is still very limited at this stage use song and dance to help him verbalise his needs and conversation in general.
The thing is that you should not make a big deal of this. That will only serve to heighten his anxiety and may make him tend to clam up and speak only when necessary.
Take it easy
Stuttering and stammering generally begins during the toddler years but often straightens itself out within six to twelve months. Take it easy at first. Monitor his speech. If you feel it’s getting worse or not getting better at all, then it may be a good idea to have him assessed by a speech therapist. Your paediatrician will point you in the right direction.
But remember the importance of not making a big deal out of this!