My child is stammering - help!
Updated: Oct 5, 2021
Lots of young children stammer – in fact it’s a normal part of development. As children start to develop their language skills they start to connect the words and phrases they have already learnt to generate completely new sentences.
It’s understandable that sometimes they trip over their words. The problem is when children can’t seem to shake the stammer off and continue to bump over sounds and words when they speak.
There are a number of different ways children stammer and it can be concerning when children use secondary behaviours to ‘get the words out’ such as looking away, or blinking. It takes a skilled speech and language therapist to identify what is happening and measure the severity of your child’s stammer.
When I work with children who stammer, there are a number of factors I take into account. Are they aware of their stammer? And how is the stammer impacting on their ability to talk with others or join in with classroom discussions?
I use a highly effective approach when working with children who stammer, and I support families and education settings to make sure we’re all encouraging the child to produce smooth and confident speech.
The Lidcombe Program is an early stammer treatment with a strong evidence base and I have many happy parents who will tell you it works! This program can only be delivered by a trained speech and language therapist, who will guide you through the program during weekly visits to your home.
It targets and supports your child’s innate ability to produce fluent speech. If you think about it, even if your child stammers there are times when they are stammer free – and that is what this intervention focuses on!
It’s a much more positive experience for all involved.
Other approaches can use a lot of time collecting information about the history of the child, the history of the family and asking parents to explain the whys and the wherefores of their child’s stammered speech.
Families can sometimes feel that they have ‘caused’ the stammer, so asking repeated and detailed questions about history can then compound those feelings of guilt in parents and caregivers. Before I go on, can I reassure parents now that if your child stammers it is not your fault!
I take a much more positive approach when I work with families to focus on the solution – smooth and confident speech. I do this by guiding parents to learn about their child's speaking patterns and how best to respond to ensure speech is produced without any bumps.
How does it work?
There are two phases to the Lidcombe Program. The first is where I train you to be highly skilled in recognising and responding appropriately to your child when they speak. When we get your child to a stammer rating of 0 (that’s no stammering at all) we then start the second phase where I show you how to do all you can to make sure the stammer doesn’t reappear.
How long does it take?
The research says that Phase 1 takes between 11 and 16 sessions, which is approximately 4 months, to get your child down to a consistent level of no stammering.
What can I do now?
Kirsten Howells from Stamma gives some great tips and suggestions for how you can help your child at home. This is great advice to share:
"Rather than describing the stammer as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ take the value out of it and change your language to stammering ‘more’ or ‘less.’ Sometimes it can feel like it ‘was a bad day’ when your child has stammered a lot, but this change in language to 'more' or 'less' is very powerful and takes the stigma away from talking about stammering."
The Lidcombe Program incorporates this strategy by using severity scores when describing the stammer, and there are a number of imaginative ways to keep children on track and eliminate their stammer - in a way that is fun for all the family!
Here is one happy mum's feedback:
"Lisa has supported my son with a stammer he developed which was starting to affect his confidence. She was absolutely brilliant with my son from the word go. He really enjoyed her visits, playing and having fun, and she made us both feel comfortable and supported. Lisa is hugely knowledgeable but explains the approach she’s taking so clearly and simply, and gave me the confidence to support my son in his development throughout the journey. She was always available and responsive to any question or concerns I had between visits and was able to use really imaginative ideas to help us keep our son engaged and on track. I really felt the therapy was tailored carefully for him and for us. I would highly recommend her as we are delighted with his progress - he’s started school confident and happy. Brilliant!"
Lisa Taylor-Jones is an independent speech and language therapist and an accredited Lidcombe Program Practitioner. She is the founder of Step Up Speech and Language therapy service and helps children in Plymouth, Devon and Cornwall overcome their difficulties to communicate successfully and engage with learning.