About 1% of the population stutters. Blake is among that percentage. Stuttering is a disruption of the fluency of speech between neurons in the brain through blocks, or prolongation of certain sounds in speech. It affects every one who stutters differently, and sometimes is accompanied by secondary behaviors, such as ticks, or contortions of the face that a child may use to help. We’ve experienced all of this with him at some point. It all comes and goes without rhythm.
I continue to be amazed at his ability to handle all that comes with stuttering. He never gets frustrated with it and he attends to speech therapy every week like a champ!
I am trying to learn as much as I can about stuttering; causes, best practices/therapies. There’s so much that isn’t known about it, and like any parent would, I wish there was a clear answer. I like to understand the ‘whys’. 😉
After a lot of research and asking questions, there is still some controversy in the medical field to explain why it occurs.
The most common factors that seem to be recurring:
- Family history of stuttering (we have none that I am aware of)
- Neurophysiology, which explains that language is processed differently than the “regular” child. This backs up what a lot of other research says, that it’s a neurological disorder.
The best thing we are doing at home for him, in conjunction with the therapist, is staying patient with him. We will sometimes have him start over and slow his speech down, but only depending on the severity of the stutter. If he can navigate through a word and correct himself on his own, we allow him to continue. This helps to reduce any anxiety or frustration that can come along with stumbling through conversations.
I am so grateful that Blake doesn’t get frustrated with his speech. His therapist says this is sometimes the biggest hurdle that many kids experience, and the fact that he’s aware of his speech and doesn’t let it affect him is great!
There are things that I wish other people understood about stuttering, though. There are times when people question me or tell me they don’t hear him stuttering, and they wonder why I’m making such a big deal about it, so I wanted to clarify. I really don’t mind people asking questions, and I love sharing what little bit I do know (so far). I didn’t know anything about stuttering prior to a year ago, so I don’t mind the questions and curiosities to be honest.
I don’t expect people to have an instant understanding of how stuttering works, so I hope this little bit helps.
- Stuttering doesn’t occur 100% of the time. Blake will go for days or even a week with zero to only slightly stuttering. Other days/weeks he will hardly be able to get out a sentence fluently. Reasons for this can vary, but if he’s presented with any sort of anxiety (he’s a naturally anxious person) then it will immediately return. This includes change of routine, and some social situations. So if you’re around us, or any other person who stutters, please don’t expect that you’re going to hear it always. One day it’s there, and the next day it’s not. In other words, it’s unpredictable.
- Speech therapy makes a world of difference. Over the summer we took a break from therapy and his speech was the worst it’s ever been! His speech has been pretty good the last few weeks but we didn’t have therapy this week because she was sick, and he’s been struggling with his speech this week since skipping. The difference it makes it so noticeable!
- Speech therapy doesn’t correct stuttering. There’s no way to really get rid of it. Therapy only provides tools to manage it and understand how his speech works. She works a lot with him on recognizing when he’s stuttering so that he can pause and restart without being prompted by another adult. More self correcting. It’s also helping him to be okay with it, and communicate how he feels about it.
- If you are around him and he’s trying to get out a thought but you notice he’s struggling, please don’t interject and finish his sentence. It causes him to stutter more. It was explained to me that he then doesn’t feel like what he’s about to say is important enough for you to hear it directly from him, so he will either stop talking or try to rush to get it out before you finish, which will result in more stuttering. (I’ve noticed when he’s playing with other kids this happens a lot. Kids don’t know any better so I get it. They’re impatient. If you know a kid who stutters, it would be helpful to us parents if you helped them to be patient with their stuttering friend. THIS ALSO APPLIES TO CLASSROOMS) As a teacher myself, I understand how important it is to address issues and teach kindness/understanding and acceptance when it comes to kids who are different than their peers. See below.
- Talk with your kid if they have a stuttering friend. It’s okay to tell your child that some people talk differently, and some kids have “bumpy speech” (this is what we call it). Teach them that while it’s nice to help friends, in this case, it’s important to be patient or even grab their friends hand to let them know they’re okay to wait for them to finish talking. Don’t interrupt. Usually the speech will correct itself if the stutterer knows that they’re being heard and not rushed.
- Excitement brings out stuttering! Most excitement at a young age occurs during play/running around. This is normal, because when they’re excited adrenaline is going and that creates a sense of anxiousness. Blake has also become very shy in the last year, something that he never was before. I can’t help but wonder if this is because of the stutter. We are working with him on how to address people and first speak with them. There’s been some social reversion he’s gone through.
- Stuttering kids are smart. They learn to “work around their speech”. This means they can often pinpoint the words/phrases that can cause them difficulty, and they may avoid saying those words altogether. When Blake first started stuttering he realized that saying “I” was difficult for him, so he changed all sentences beginning with “I” to “Me”. If you read an earlier blog post I wrote, I mentioned this. Therapy helped him work through this. He also moved to a stage where he would beginning sentences with “um” or “uh” because those words didn’t cause him difficulty, then he could more fluidly move into the rest of the sentence. He’s also known to start a sentence off with a high pitched voice, almost like singing to help. And, he was doing quite a bit of “baby talk” for a while, because he stuttered way less this way. His therapist identifies the baby talk with a compensatory behavior—a way that he’s recognized he can get through speech without having any “bumps.” We correct him and make him talk in a “normal” voice.
Some kids make snide remarks and have asked him “What’s wrong with you?” or have said impatient, “Just get it out!” Obviously this doesn’t help and he’s likely to stutter more because he gets nervous.
Kids are going to be kids and my hope is for us to teach Blake how to respond to situations in which people may ask/tease/get frustrated with him. I don’t think the world ever needs to bend toward him, or that parents need to go out of their way to counsel their own kids for the sake of my own kid or any other stutterer, but a small conversation can help them to understand. If his stuttering continues, he’s going to need to be given the tools to answer people’s questions or advocate for himself in a kind way. I don’t want anyone to ever treat him differently, but I do want people to understand and be patient with him. (But shouldn’t we be like this with everyone, anyway? Wouldn’t that be nice in the world!) 🙂
Parenting is never cut and dry. We are always presented with various challenges along the way. This just happens to be one of ours. The stuttering has just become a part who he is. We handle it as a family, and we don’t mind it so much.
The love of my life stutters. And I love him for it!
Free online resources for stutterers/parents of stutterers: