Simple tips to help your child

If you are waiting for your child to see a speech and language therapist, there are some ways you can help him with his talking. You may find some of them easy, others will need practice. If for some reason a therapist is not available or you are not able to take him to see one, these ideas will help you to support your child's speaking and will not make his stammering worse.

Remember the simple tips

Give him time to finish and do not interrupt or finish off words.

Do not comment on his speech unless you notice that he is struggling to speak, or reacting to his stammering by making a comment, or a gesture: 'Do not ignore his distress.' Give him support, as you would for any ordinary difficulty like a fall, and comment gently, 'Well done, that was a hard word for you.' A hug or other appropriate sympathetic gesture might also be a good idea.

Listen attentively and repeat back some part of what he said so that the child feels that what he said is more important than how he said it.

Maintain normal eye contact and do not show any impatience. For example, avoid frequently nodding; looking at a watch or surreptitiously getting on with another task while the child is speaking.

Slow your own speech with natural pauses, demonstrating that there is no need to rush.

Talk, play and/or socialise regularly with your child in a relaxed environment where you follow his lead as to what he wants to do.

Aim to build his self-esteem by emphasising what he does well and using his name or family nickname regularly when you talk with him so he knows that he is unique and special to you. He is more likely then to develop the confidence to manage his speaking even when stammering severely.

Talk with him on a daily basis one to one for at least fifteen minutes in a relaxed and quiet atmosphere with nothing else happening to distract him such as the television, or loud background noise. When he is younger you may find that he is most comfortable sitting down in a special place that he likes, with a favourite toy/ game, with you sitting at the same level.

The older child

As he gets older, and is less inclined to sit down with a parent, integrate talking into daily activities such as mealtimes, bedtimes and family leisure occasions. Even if it is an effort when a parent is tired it is worth doing that to communicate regularly with your child by talking and listening to what he has to say. Then you can be reassured that if he has a worry about his speech or anything else such as teasing and bullying that you will be the first to know.

Spending quality time with your child

Spend time together regularly - follow his lead when he is younger by playing with what he wants to play with and talking about what he wants to talk about. As he gets older involve yourself in his activities, for example television viewing, playing games on a computer or outdoors and use the opportunities to talk. This sense of being in charge particularly if he has more skill than you helps to build his self-esteem and causes him to think a little about what he is doing, especially if he feels that he has a superior skill that he can explain to you. During this time, encourage him by praising him for what he is good at (e.g.: 'That was a great goal' or 'Thanks for showing me how to play that').

Make the family routine relaxed rather then rushed.

A home environment that is calm and relaxed

This is a difficult ideal to attain nowadays as there are so many stresses on families. However, a home environment that feels tranquil and relaxed to a child of any age will be helpful to speech management and build confidence. If he has been at school for example, you may want to immediately ask about his day particularly if something important like a test was taking place. However, he will have been stimulated and possibly stressed during that day by school work and social contacts and may just need a comforting environment with you where no demands are made on him. You could just sit quietly nearby as he relaxes, responding when he talks to you. Let him choose the moment for talking about how he had got on, even if it is much later on.

Helping your child to help himself

As he gets older and widens his social contacts it is important to ensure that he is not rushing around all the time between different activities; if possible a good balance between stimulus and calm needs to be maintained. Activities that help him to concentrate while being methodical and 'slowing him down' can all contribute to that: learning to swim, play a musical instrument, have lessons in football and so forth. Perhaps also the popular Sports of the East such as Tai chi may be fun and encourage relaxation and concentration. The idea is to 'slow down' a child and help him to keep calm. The BSA hears from many parents that their primary child, particularly if he is a boy, can be 'dashing around all the time' and that this seems to affect their concentration and their fluency.

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