How to Use Spatial Concepts in Speech to Stop Stuttering


Stuttering can be a debilitating condition that affects a person's self-confidence and ability to communicate his or her thoughts. There are several folk remedies for reducing a stutter, but these should be always be paired with evidence-based practices to be effective. One of the specific strategies is teaching spatial concepts to help reduce stuttering behaviors.

Stuttering, otherwise known as stammering, is a form of dysfluency that causes a disruption in normal speech. Stuttering can manifest differently in different people. For example, a stutterer may repeat a sound or a syllable from a word, usually at the first prefix such as "bu-bu-butterfly". Some would suffer from prolongations of a sound such as "rrrright". Others would suffer from noticeable blocks or omissions of sounds. It also describes when people excessively use fillers such as "uh" or "um" in their speech.

Anyone can suffer from stuttering regardless of age. However, children are more prone to having this condition because they are still learning to form new words and sentences. There are also studies that show stuttering is more common with boys than with girls. Typical language dysfluency appears at around 18-24 months, and they typically disappear around 5 years of age.

One in five children will display some form of dysfluency that may be a cause of concern for parents. In children who stutter, about one in 20 will have a dysfluency problem that will persist for more than 6 months. Being supportive and patient regarding dysfluency problems will help children overcome typical stuttering problems. Before we look into what these concepts are and how they can help in stuttering, let us first review the signs of stuttering, both in adults and in children. If you notice these signs with yourself or your loved one, learning spatial concepts can be a good strategy in eliminating stuttering behaviors.

Some signs that a person may suffer from a stuttering condition include:

  • Facial rigidity or tension when struggling to pronounce a word
  • Heightened pitch during word or phrase repetitions
  • Sometimes, there is a tension and extreme effort in trying to speak
  • Avoiding situations where the individual needs to talk
  • Replacing some words when the person expects a possible stutter


What Are Spatial Concepts?

Spatial concepts are defined as non-specific words that indicate location. For example, words such as "on", "in", "over", "under" are examples of spatial concepts. They can be used alongside actual nouns to indicate a specific relative location. For example, you can use the spatial concept "on" with "table" to say the phrase "on the table".

These concepts are one of the most integral blocks of learning vocabulary. Aside from labeling nouns and action words or verbs, children learn qualitative and quantitative concepts such as those involving location. Such words are learned at around 18 months and most of them can be taught until 5-7 years of age. Most children will be using these concepts in their speech from the simplest to the complex ones as they mature. It helps them to formulate their phrases and sentences better, which can eventually prevent word retrieval problems or stuttering.

How Do You Teach Spatial Concepts?

Just like any other part of the vocabulary, spatial concepts are learned through repetition and constant exposure. Here are some effective techniques to teach spatial concepts, especially with children:


Demonstrate and Label the Concept

Spatial concepts are tricky to define. To help your child visualize these concepts, you need to show how they look like as you label them. You can do this through pictures or actual objects. For example, you want to teach the spatial concept "inside". You can put a ball inside a basket, and you can show and label that "the ball is inside the basket".

Make Use of Such Concepts Along With Following Commands

Following commands are not only useful to improve your child's auditory processing—they can also help your child learn about spatial concepts. Children around 2 years of age listen and following commands such as "clap your hands", or "touch your nose". These are called "rote commands" which usually have a single element that can be easily processed and understood. To challenge your child's processing skills, you can add spatial concepts to the commands. Instead of saying "Give me the ball", you can add "Put the ball in the box" to see if they can understand the specific instructions you have given.

Ask "Yes" or "No" Questions in Teaching These Concepts

Another great way to assess if your child can understand the spatial concepts you have taught him or her is to incorporate them through yes/no questions. Yes/no questions are also elements of auditory processing that helps you see if the concept is established in their vocabulary. When reading books or playing with toys, you can ask questions such as "Is the dog outside the house?" or "Is the shoe under the bed?" These kinds of questions can help you determine if your child thoroughly understands the concepts already taught to him or her.

Ask "Where" Questions

The last step of comprehension is if your child can use the concepts within his or her expressive vocabulary. Once you see that your child seems proficient with the steps above, you can ask "Where" questions. You can use actual objects, story books, or even real situations. Questions such as "Where is the bear?" or "Where did daddy hide?" are examples you can use to prompt your child to use spatial concepts in speech. Now that you understand how to teach these words, what are ways that spatial concepts can help improve a stuttering problem?

man speaking

How to Use Spatial Concepts in Speech to Stop Stuttering

Stuttering can be attributed both to a cognitive and psychological problem. Although some dysfluency is normal at a certain age, there are ways you can improve stuttering behaviors through different learning techniques, such as teaching your child location-based concepts.

Learning the Concepts Can Help Improve Vocabulary

Often, children who have stuttering problems are still learning new words. Thus, some stuttering behaviors are expected such as word repetitions, blocks, or sound prolongation. This happens when the child struggles to retrieve a word that may be in his mind but has not been mastered yet to appear in his expressive vocabulary. Being able to use these concepts frequently can build one's vocabulary, making a person speak more fluently.

Using the Concepts Can Help Reduce Fillers

Words such as "in", "on", or "at" are considered connective, which means they link one concept to another based on their relative location. Some children or even adults have difficulties in fluency because they have trouble retrieving spatial concepts immediately. As a result, they are prone to using fillers such as "um", "like", or "uh". When stutterers notice they are not speaking fluently, anxiety increases, making it even more difficult to speak. The extensive use of spatial concepts can help reduce the fillers, which minimizes the self-consciousness in speech.

Spatial Concepts Can Aid in Visualization

Some stutterers claim they lose their train of thought when they feel tense about their fluency. This leads to a buildup of more stuttering behaviors present in speech. These concepts can help in reducing stuttering problems by helping people visualize what they are talking about. For example, a person may tell a story about his or her experiences with a restaurant. If another person asks where this restaurant is located, that person may visualize the spatial concept such as "beside the barbershop" to help in speaking more fluidly.

Understanding the Use of These Concepts Can Help Build Confidence

One of the most common grammar mistakes is those relating to spatial concepts. Often individual would confuse using "on" instead of "in", or "at" instead of "for". These grammar-related mistakes may cause more fluency anxiety, making the person rehash their word use repeatedly. By being able to memorize the proper use of such concepts, one may feel more confident in his speech and would be less likely to worry about mistake anticipation.



To conclude, we hope this article has helped you better understand how spatial concepts can help you or your loved one overcome a stubborn stutter. Although stuttering is a condition some children will outgrow, others don't grow out of it on their own, and they need speech therapy to help them overcome it. In fact, dwelling on the anxiety caused by fluency problems may cause the stuttering condition to progress into severe kinds. As a parent or a caregiver, it is important to incorporate several techniques and to build the child's confidence in speaking.

As an adult, it is best to focus on your self-concept when trying to eliminate stuttering behaviors. Over-attention or anticipation of mistakes is counter-effective in any stuttering treatment. Be sure to be mindful of relaxing, letting the words flow, and understanding you need not focus on every grammatical error or word you have a fear of pronouncing. As you let things be, it will be easier for you to have better communication while dwelling less on potential mistakes caused by stuttering.

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