In the early years, children learn language at a rapid pace. A typical twenty month old can produce around fifty words. They may begin to string two or more words together to work towards forming sentences. But for some parents, their young toddlers and babies may begin to stutter when first start talking, which can cause concern, and may require seeking speech therapy for toddlers. There are signs to help parents identify what is normal, and there are different types of stuttering in younger children.
Types of Stuttering
Stuttering is an impairment in the ability to produce smooth speech; this is often called speech disfluency. Some stuttering is normal for a toddler or young child, as they are just beginning to start talking. A child may repeat a syllable twice – such as li, li, like. They may add fillers such as “um” or “er” to their speech. All of this is normal during language development and children will age out of this.
Parents often wonder what the causes are in their child’s delays in speech. If there is a family history of speech delays, the child can be at an increased risk. Pay attention to how you speak in the house; parents that are fast speakers have a higher chance of having a child with a stutter. No one knows for sure what causes stuttering during language development, but it is definitely a real thing and can be negatively impacting on a child’s security and esteem if handled incorrectly. A young 20 month old may experience times of stuttering, but this is generally not a concern.
If you notice that your child repeats a sound more than twice, such as c-c-c-cup, it could be a sign that your child has mild stuttering. Over time, parents notice that their child’s voice pitch will rise with repetition due to their frustration. Their facial muscles may tense as they attempt to produce the correct sound. These are mild cases and are not as big of a concern, but should still be checked out by a doctor.
Autism and Stuttering
A child who is autistic may also stutter. This can produce frustration during social interactions. It is important to note there is no proof that autism causes stuttering and many times, an autistic child will not have any type of speech disfluency. If a parent has any concerns that their child has autism, or their child does have autism and is stuttering, they need to speak to their healthcare providers to get a diagnosis.
When to Worry
Even mild stuttering problems can resolve themselves over the course of time. Parents often wonder when they should worry about their child. If a child stutters about ten percent of the time in their speech or if the stuttering has continued for more than six months, it may be a good time to get in touch with your local early intervention program to seek therapy.
How to Help
Once you realize your child has a stuttering problem, you may be wondering how to help them at home. Aside from seeking speech therapy with a therapist, producing a fluency friendly environment is the best thing to do for your young toddler. This means that your conversations should be slow and at a relaxed pace. Do not rush when speaking to your child, but make sure not to speak so slowly that it is abnormal and causing embarrassment for them.
Other techniques and exercises to practice at home include reading books and singing songs that include a lot of repetition. Try to engage your kid in the songs and to read words if they are able to identify any. Kids and babies alike love to play with their parents and it is a wonderful time to practice slow, relaxed speech.
Speech Therapy for Toddlers
Speech therapy for toddlers with a stutter is different than most other therapies. Some tools therapists utilize are play dough or blocks to engage the child in play. These materials cause the kids to focus and most of the therapy has reduced speech. When the child starts to talk, the therapist allows the conversation to be child led, not adult led. This technique puts the child at ease during their sessions.
Speech therapy for toddlers involves a lot of techniques, including one called pausing. This teaches kids how to pause after the first word of every sentence. They teach the child to start talking and then pause after one, two, or three words, but never in the middle of a word. Most therapists will have suggestions for a multitude of free tips and ideas to utilize at home.
Other Tips and Tools
Be sure not to rush a child when they talk and actively listen. Coaching them on how to breathe is generally not helpful. A parent should not interrupt their child even if they stutter. Patiently wait for them to finish and attempt to not show any annoyance. Remember, they are just as frustrated as you.
Another tip is to not encourage or teach more vocabulary at this stage. Often times, parents want to encourage their kids to grow their language vocabulary during this stage of development. For children with a speech stutter, it is best to encourage simple language and short sentences until they have worked through their stutter.
There are some toys and activities parents can work on at home. An example is using blocks or other toys and having cars push them slowly to simulate stretching our words. Another technique is using play dough while stretching our their words slowly. A lot of materials at home can be used to play games to help them grow and learn how to conquer their speech impediment.
Parents should be creative with their ideas and activities at home to help create a relaxed environment while their child learns to slow their speech and should play games that encourage repetition in speech.
There are plenty of exercises that encourage oral skills, such as drinking from a straw. This encourages the optimal tongue position.
With the help of therapists, parents can have all of their questions answered on what is average or normal for stuttering in toddlers.. It is never too early to seek a professional opinion, and if you are ever overly concerned or continue to worry, it is the best option.
Check out some of these tips by The Stuttering Foundation,
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