How to react to stuttering in young children

Michael Barrett, speech language pathologist at Covenant Medical Center (Source: KCBD Video)
Michael Barrett, speech language pathologist at Covenant Medical Center (Source: KCBD Video)
Updated: Oct. 18, 2017 at 4:17 PM CDT
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The National Stuttering Association encourages people who stutter to speak up whether they are fluent or not. The message here is language takes practice. Michael Barrett, a speech language pathologist at Covenant Medical Center, says the same theory can be used in children.

He says Developmental Stuttering is the most common form of stuttering, as opposed to when the disorder is triggered by trauma or illness. He adds that 5 percent of the population between age two and five will stutter and the best thing parents can do is to not panic.

Barrett explains that it's normal to make mistakes when you're learning a language. He offers this advice to parents, "The crucial thing you have to watch out for when it comes to stuttering and correct stuttering is to make sure a child feels comfortable and relaxed about their speech and not feel pressure or anxiety about their speech."

So, does that mean parents can add to the problem by bringing attention to stuttering in an effort to help correct it?

Barrett says, "Yes, if mistakes are made initially, it's nothing to be concerned about. It's when a child becomes self-aware of those problems and you start seeing anxiety and pressure, that's the critical juncture that needs to be addressed."

Most children will outgrow the normal frustration of learning a language.  But Barrett says if that anxiety grows and the self-pressure  continues, the greater the chance it could lead to a permanent impairment.

So, he tells parents if you are concerned, talk to your primary care physician and consider a referral to a speech pathologist so that the child's stressors can be addressed.

International Stuttering Awareness Day is Sunday, Oct. 22.

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