Is Your Child Facing Speech Problem? Here's Why!

Jun 03, 2019

Does your child jumble while speaking? Do they find it hard to start a new word? Well, then, there's a fair chance they are facing speech problem. Surprisingly, most parents ignore this condition, anticipating their child is still in the learning phase. But is it really, so? What if they are suffering from a common speech disorder, i.e., stuttering?

What Is Stuttering?

Stuttering is a common disorder that affects the speech of a person. It is most prevalent in children who are in their developmental stage. While every child learns to speak at a different time and at their own pace, stuttering is different than a normal repetition of words. It generally includes poor pronunciation of words, repetition of phrases or words, leaving out words, and saying some words that are hard to recognize. More than 70 million people are stutterers in the world. While some improve by the age of 7 or 8, 1 out of every 100 children is left with long-term stuttering. This condition causes trouble in the normal patterns of speech resulting in blocks or repetitions. Early diagnosis is helpful in treating this condition more effectively.

Signs and Symptoms of Stuttering in Children

When a child stutters, they often repeat words or parts of words to get the fluency of speech. They also tend to extend certain speech sounds. Other than this, the common signs and symptoms of stuttering are:
  • difficulty while starting a word, phrase, or sentence, for instance, 'I w-w-w-want a soda'
  • pausing before pronouncing certain sounds like 'Go (pause) away'
  • repeating a sound, word, or syllable such as 'This is my puppy-puppy-puppy'
  • certain speech sounds may be prolonged like 'Ssssssssoup is nice'
  • speech may come out in spurts
Also, when a child stutters talks, there may be:
  • a trembling jaw
  • trembling lips
  • rapid blinking
  • foot tapping
  • tightening of the face /or upper body

What Causes Stuttering in Children?

Although there is still no definite cause for stuttering, researchers are pointing towards genetic and neurobiological factors. Besides that, here are some types and factors that may also cause/trigger stuttering in children.
  • Developmental Stuttering

Kids usually stammer in their early years when their speech and language skills are not well developed. However, if it persists even when they pass their developmental phase, they might be facing a speech problem. It may be due to family history. Half of the cases of stuttering are because of genetic reasons. If this condition runs in the family, it is possible for a child to suffer from it.
  • Neurogenic Stuttering

Neurogenic factors can also be responsible for stuttering in children. This type of stuttering happens when the signals between the brain, speech nerves, and muscles do not work properly. Neurogenic factors may further lead to brain injury in rare severe cases.

Psychological Factors for Stuttering 

Too much pressure or emphasizing on learning new words and speak fluently may also cause stuttering. Simply put, anxiety, low confidence, nervousness, and stress do not cause stuttering. However, they are the result of living with a condemned speech problem, which can at times make symptoms worse.

When to Seek Help?

If your child is 5, or more than five years of age and still stuttering, consult a doctor, possibly, a speech-language therapist. Other than this, you need to talk to a doctor if your child is:
  • starting to stutter late
  • starting to stutter more
  • there exists a family history of stuttering
  • suffering from another speech or language disorder
  • struggling when talking

Treatment for Stuttering

Early diagnosis of any disease or disorder opens up a positive window for treating the condition. Similarly, in the case of stuttering, doctors try several techniques, strategies, and behaviours that help in treating the condition. Therefore, here are some treatments for stuttering includes:
  • Electronic fluency devices
Electronic fluency devices usually work well for some patients. These devices use an altered auditory feedback effect. Every time a person speaks, the speaker's voice echoes in the earpiece so that they feel they are talking in unison with the other person. This helps patients to understand and overcome their lag of speech.
  • Fluency shaping therapy
According to this therapy, controlling and monitoring speech rate is highly important. Your kid's doctor might use this therapy that involves using short sentences and phrases, practising smooth, fluent speech at very slow speed. Under this treatment, kids are taught to stretch vowels and consonants. With continuous practice, your kid can speak at higher speed without stuttering.
  • Stuttering modification therapy
Stuttering modification therapy uses strategizes including discussion, oral reading, modelling stuttered behaviours and self-observation. It aims to modify the stuttering so that it is easier and requires less effort, rather than eliminating it.

Tips for Parents

While your child is dealing with a stutter, here are some tips to make it easier for them.
  • Reduce the pace of your speech. Let them understand your words clearly.
  • Ensure you practice clear pronunciation of vowels and consonants with them.
  • Try to maintain a relaxed environment when they get stuck.
  • Encourage the child to talk more and more. Pick some fun and easy topics that interest them.
  • Always remember, not to react in a negative way. Instead, praise when they get a word right after their attempts.
  • Do not interrupt the child while they are speaking. It breaks their flow.
  • Pay attention and listen when they speak.
  • Wait for the child to complete the words or sentences. Do not try to finish up the sentences or words for them.
  • Most importantly, talk openly about their condition, if they bring up the subject.
There are no instant miraculous cures for stuttering. In fact, even medical treatments take time to show positive results. Therefore, it is important to keep patience and calm while helping your children. Always remember, with persistence and proper care, this speech disorder can be tackled.

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