What to do and not do if your child has a stammer

Stammering is a speech impediment which affects some children. If your child has a stammer, here are some things to do and not do.

By Susan Philip

What to do and not do if your child has a stammer

Several children go through a phase of stammering when they are learning to talk. They may have difficulty in uttering words. They may pause unusually long between words. They may keep repeating syllables before saying the full word and moving on. The phase usually passes. In some cases, however, it doesn’t. If you notice that your child often strains to start saying something, or has jerky speech, or stretches out syllables, he may have a persistent stammer. Sometimes, stammering is consistent. It may also seem to come and go, depending on situations and who your child is talking to. If he is relaxed and comfortable with the people around him, he may be able to talk normally. But in a tense situation, or when talking to teachers or others in authority, he may stammer.

It is important to understand that stammering can be controlled and even overcome. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Don’t display tension

It is natural for you, as a parent, to worry about your child’s stammer. But don’t make your worry obvious to her. That will stress her, and worsen the problem. Don’t try to force her not to stammer, either. She won’t be able to do it on her own, and it will demoralise both her and you when she repeatedly fails to talk ‘properly.’

Do take qualified help

Speech therapists are trained to help control or overcome stammering. If you are worried that your child has a speech defect, fix an appointment with a qualified speech therapist and have him assessed. The therapist will guide you about the best course of action. Follow the advice meticulously.

Don’t allow mocking

There’s a good chance that other children will make fun of your child or humiliate her. Do everything possible to prevent this. Talk to her teachers, and also to her friends’ parents, and ensure that her peer group is positive.

Do go in for music and meditation

Hesitation and repetition are the two main problems faced by those who stammer. A practical way of overcoming these is vocal music. Enroll your child in a classical music class. The prolonged, slow singing of scales – sa, re, ga, ma and so on – will help him gain control over his voice. Concentrating on pronouncing words slowly and fully is another key to overcoming a stammer. Meditation will help in this. Sign up your child for yoga classes.

Having a stammer does not mean that your child cannot be successful in life. Many famous personalities were known to either stammer, or have overcome stammering. Ancient Greek orator Demosthenes, scientists Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin, former US President Theodore Roosevelt, Vice-President Joe Biden, and Britain’s King George VI are some of them. Tell your child about these personalities, and remind her that she can be an achiever too.