Toddlers are amazing creatures. They're learning such a wide variety of skills in an incredibly short period of time, not to mention growing by leaps and bounds. One of the most difficult things for toddlers is trying to master communication skills, which can sometimes lead to stuttering or stammering. If you're concerned that your child might be developing a stutter, here are some parenting tips to help you choose a course of action:
- Is it really toddler stuttering? Many toddlers will repeat words, especially at the beginning of their sentences. It's as if their minds are working so quickly that their mouths can't quite keep up; essentially, this is exactly what's happening. This is quite normal, and will most likely work itself out by the time your child reaches five years of age.
- Listen for sounds rather than words. My own toddler often speaks like this: "Mommy - mommy - mommy - can I have - have - have a pop - Popsicle please?" The words are rushed, and this happens more often when he's tired, cranky or overly excited. Stuttering is more of a repetition of sounds, for example: "M-m-mm-mommy, c-c-can I p-p-p-play now?" Another sign of early childhood stuttering is a prolonged first sound in a word, as in, "Mmmmmommy, I want a ssssssssnack!"
- Is your child stressed? Stuttering in children is often accompanied by stress, which they have a difficult time dealing with. The frustration of being unable to express themselves causes the stuttering in young children to get even worse. Signs of stress include mood swings, clenched fists, clenched jaw, and a hesitancy to speak even when spoken to directly.
- Talk to your doctor. Your pediatrician can make a primary diagnosis in regards to any speech problems. If the doctor believes that your toddler is indeed struggling with stuttering, then he or she will refer you to a speech pathologist to help treat the problem.
- The sooner the better. While many speech problems can be outgrown, treatment for true stuttering is most efficient and beneficial if the problem is detected early.
- Don't get visibly frustrated. Allow your child the time they need to express themselves. Don't rush them through their sentences--instead, keep a calm and open expression and give them ample time to finish what they need to say. If they feel that you're upset with them for the way they speak, they will become more and more reluctant to even try.
- Consider speech therapy. If speech therapy is a recommended treatment, you can expect the pathologist to ask you to fill out some forms and questionnaires, and your child will be tested for speech problems. After that, the pathologist will work with you to come up with programs and exercises that you can do with your child.