Let’s learn about stammering in children who are just learning to speak

By: - 5th February 2019

Parents wait impatiently to hear the words Amma or Thaththa from the lips of their little darling who is growing by the day. All these hopes will be blown away if there is a speech delay or a defect. However, if we identify these complications early on, we can easily take action to overcome them. Among various complications involving speech, the stammering is a condition mothers must be aware of.

Why does my child stammer?

What is the reason for the stammer? Will it taper off as the child grows? Or otherwise, will the child stammer throughout her life? Will the child be isolated in the society? With so many worries, mothers tire themselves looking for solutions.

First, let’s find out what exactly is stammering

Stammering/Stuttering is basically a speech defect. The defect causes the stammering, which is the repetition of a word or a sound and prolongation of a word or a sound. For Example, Ma…., Aa….mma, and speech blocks are considered as stammering.

Stammering can make it difficult for a person to express themselves with others, and this can hurt their self-confidence. The stammer is different from person to person and also can change depending on the situation. Stammering is simply a speech defect and not a lack of intelligence or language. This means that people who stammer are fully capable of communication.

How does the stammer happen?

You might be interested in knowing the physical cause for stammering. We all speak by using the breath that we exhale with. If a person is unable to accurately coordinate the three processes—breathing, vocal cord movement, and movement of tongue, lips, and palate to produce speech sounds—the result is stammering.

Little children learn to speak according to the sound of the words that they can produce from their mouths. It brings much excitement to the child. A child first makes single sounds and then starts adding more sounds to produce words. By putting together single words, they’ll start building sentences. If the coordination mentioned above does not happen, this process could break down. By the age 2 and 2.5 years, children put words together to make sentences, and sometimes because they only know few words and are unable to produce a sentence, they might stretch a word. This is not stammering. Therefore, it is vital to clearly distinguish the condition.

Some adults find it cute when children speak with a stammer and reward them for it, automatically encouraging the child to continue speaking in that manner. What you need to know is that if a child under the age of 5 years stammers, no medical treatment is needed and not focusing on it too much can even help to overcome the condition.

Most of the time, this situation can arise when a new member joins your family. Since now all the attention is centered on the new baby, there is a high chance of the elder child developing a stammer to reclaim the attention.

If a child over the age of 5 years stammers, you must take him or her to an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) doctor. The doctor will conduct a thorough examination, and if there is no defect in the throat, the child will be referred to a speech therapist. Psychiatric counseling is also important here.

The speech therapist will talk to the child to lower any anxiety and will give instructions on how to coordinate the breath while talking. And also slow speed speaking practices would help the child to maintain the rhythm while talking. Frequent speech therapy can help to get rid of the stammer faster. When you are speaking with a person who has a stammer, allow time for the person to say what he/she wants to say. Do not finish their sentences by your self. By doing this, you are not helping, but making it worsen since they get more aware about their difficulties by your act. So, do remember to give them time and the chance to express themselves and help to reduce the stammering the way you can.

Prepared by Speech and Language Therapist Chathuranga Weerarathne.

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