Communicating is a skill and learning a new language needs adeptness. Kids learn to speak by hearing others speak in their home and try to reproduce what they learn. In the early stages of infancy, it’s the parents, grandparents and others who keep communicating with the child without expecting any reply from the little one. The first word that the child utters brings immense joy and fills the parents with a sense of pride. In course of time we are in awe of our child’s conversing skills. Around the age of 3.5-4 the baby starts reproducing all that we speak and even learns to talk sentences of his/her own. But all our joy and hopes shatter literally when out of the blue the kid starts to find it difficult to speak, pauses for a long time before uttering a word or repeats certain words or sounds.
Stammering and stuttering are one and the same and it was not until recently that in India physicians started showing inclination in defining the problem as stuttering, a term more common in North America or Australia.
Stammering involves a tense struggle to get words out which is entirely different from the lack of fluency experienced which causes repetition of words or a hesitation before speaking out. Here, the words/sounds are prolonged or the person gets stuck on the word without producing any sound. Some people avoid words that they find it difficult to produce altogether and a few others avoid speaking altogether both of which are important to stammering.
Its common for kids aged between 2 and 5 to undergo a temporary period of stuttering when their speech and language skills are fast developing. The child is now eager to reproduce all that he/she has learnt and the mind works faster than the mouth could comprehend resulting in a difference in coordination between the brain and the mouth. The stutter remains for a period of few weeks or months before the individual outgrows it but rarely the stuttering remains until adulthood.
The exact cause for stuttering remains a mystery but researchers believe that it’s the result of a combination of factors which includes:
Stammering affects a person’s life in different ways according to the situation in which he/she is present, to whom the person talks and how he/she feels about his/her own speech. The problem varies in frequency, intensity and manner from person to person highly dependent on the individual who stammers.
Stuttering is not only difficulty in speaking but a serious communication problem that can shatter the person’s confidence levels, self-esteem and makes them go into seclusion. Such people are also often bullied with harsh jokes, comments or sentences.
Almost 5% of the children under the age of 5 experience this problem. More commonly present among the male gender the frequency of male to female is almost 4 to 1 showing that almost 80% individuals who stammer are men.
Taming Stammering with Helpful Tips
Parents have a great effect on the child, the way he/she sees his/her disorder and the level of comfort that the child feels in expressing himself/herself.
Under the age of 5
Recognizing the problems at an early stage and starting on speech and language therapy are the most effective solutions for children under the age of 5. When the problem is diagnosed at the early stage (called as Early Intervention) there is a high probability that the child starts to speak fluently again. A speech and language therapist (SLT) works with the child, his/her parents and educational staff to determine the best treatment plan. Psychological therapy is suggested to deal with emotional problems that are intertwined with speech difficulties. The SLT suggests handling the problem in two different ways:
Here, parents play the main role changing the way in which they communicate at home instead of directly correcting the child’s talking. This is the first approach suggested by therapists for kids under the age of five. Indirect therapy is based on the concept that the child lacks the attributes to keep up with the demands of language skills and this demand might either be from other people around or due to the child’s own desire to communicate, talk all that he/she learns or due to too much enthusiasm. The ultimate goal of indirect therapy is to create a serene environment which makes the child feel less pressurized during communication. This is possible through:
Here the SLT guides the parents on whose instructions the mom and dad provide consistent feedback to the child regarding his/her speech in a friendly and supportive way which never discourages the little one during any point of time but only helps him/her understand the mistakes and correct them.
Any traces of stammering that lasts for more than 3 years or lingers beyond the age of 6 is extremely challenging to treat. Stammering leads to other side problems such as anxiety or fear about speaking, embarrassment and isolation too. SLT with older children and adults includes behavioral therapy as well as dealing with social, emotional and psychological aspects of stammering.
Impressive tips to avoid/reduce stuttering include:
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