Helping your child to be more open about his stammering
If he is continuing to stammer at primary school there will come a time when he will be able to engage in different ways of helping himself to cope with his speech. The age at which you can judge that he is able to do this will be set by him, as when he is relaxed about talking to you about his speech he is likely to begin thinking about what is happening when he talks. If he is receiving therapy then he will get considerable help with dealing with issues of openness, but parents can also help him to feel better able to cope.
The key is to be ready to talk if he needs to about any problems he is meeting at school or with friends and encourage ideas he may have that are sensible ways of dealing with them. School problems must quickly be raised with his teacher and the school should have good strategies in place to help but you may need to initiate a chat about stammering with other adults or children he comes into contact with. Occasionally, with your help, and that of his therapist if one is involved, he may feel that he can approach someone himself. The BSA knows of primary school children who actually have had the confidence to mention their stammer to an adult, or other children, and give them a BSA leaflet or one provided by a therapist. In a couple of instances children have been helped by parents/ teachers/therapists to prepare their own personal leaflet, which really does make the point well.
When your child will not talk about his stammer
If this happens and your child appears quite relaxed about his speech and does not seem to be having any problems communicating at school or with friends and family, then there is no need to worry if he does not want to talk about his stammer.
However, a minority of children as they grow older may not want to talk about their speech because they find it so worrying. These worries may be growing inside them and only come out in their behaviour. Girls are more likely to become withdrawn and boys to act out their frustrations in silliness or worse. If you feel that your child may be reaching this stage it is vital to talk again with the teacher and a speech and language therapist. These professionals may now consider that more help is required from another outside agency, such as an educational psychologist, so that an assessment is made for more support for learning through the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice.
Teaching your child to deal with stress
We know that a child who stammers is likely to stammer more when he feels stressed and anxious. He should be encouraged when he is old enough to be playing out of your sight in the house to have 'time out' when he is quiet and relaxed. This quiet time after periods of stressful activity: rushing around between activities, hard work at school and so forth can have a calming effect. There should be a special place for this; perhaps a corner of his bedroom where he has a few books, quiet toys or activities, such as drawing, that calm and relax him. When he is having a quiet session in this place, you should make sure that he is not stimulated by anything that makes any demands on him, such as games or television.
It is thought that children who follow this practice are quietening themselves down and that they do learn to self-monitor their own need for this little temporary escape from pressure and can actually learn to choose to impose some quiet time on themselves. Parents can help by modelling a little of this relaxation themselves, reading quietly for instance and encouraging their child to sit quietly near you and do something similar.
Most of allow our minds to become clogged up with racing thoughts even when we are occupied on a task. Even young children can do this and if they stammer that adds to the demands on them. Encourage your child to focus on a task or an experience as much as he can so that he is not doing many things at once. When out walking for instance enjoy some aspect of the scenery at a very particular level: study a leaf for example and get your child to really look at it and observe it, thinking of words with you that describe it. This all helps to slow him down and appreciate experiences. Therapists working with older children may introduce these concepts.
Children who are busy most of the time, and boys in particular who may seem to be never still, often benefit from putting that energy into Sports musical activities, and other exercise that takes up energy and/or helps them to relax. Swimming, Tai chi and yoga are both good aids to relaxation and Wii exercise programmes can be easily done in the home and are great fun for the whole family. If you think that your child seems to be stressed and over active at any time try some quick fun exercises with him, 'jumping jacks' apparently have been found to quickly use up energy and calm down a child who seems wound up.
At school, there will be programmes that aim to make your child more health and well-being conscious. In many schools now the concept is established of children taking time out in a quiet area, when they feel stressed. If your child is getting that kind of understanding at home as well he will feel supported in every way. He will learn to improve his own self-monitoring skills so that he can take steps to lower his levels of stress when he feels that he needs to.
All these approaches will make it easier for your child to manage his speech even when he is stammering and give him the confidence to take part and achieve his potential.
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