Step in early with speech therapy

Young children often stop, pause, start again and stumble over words when they are learning to talk.

Between the ages of two and five, it is normal for a child to repeat words and phrases, and hesitate with um’s and er’s, when figuring out what to say next.

However, about four to five in every hundred children stammer for a time when they are learning to talk. Many find it easier to talk fluently as they get older. Others continue to find talking difficult and often get stuck.

As parents you would notice that:

*The child cannot seem to get started; no sound comes out for several seconds (“... I got a truck.”) He tends to put in a lot more effort while speaking and his speech is in fits and starts.

*He tends to stretch sounds and repeat parts of words several times. He may even stop halfway through a sentence.

However, this varies from child to child. You may observe some or all of these patterns when your child speaks. Your child’s fluency may change according to the situation, the group he is with and the familiarity of the words he uses/ hears. His physical wellbeing also plays an important role in how well his speech progresses.

Stammering may come and go; you may notice that his speech is fluent for several days, weeks or months at a time, then he stumbles and suddenly speaking becomes difficult again.

You should seek an evaluation by a speech pathologist if:

*There are 4 or more stuttering-like episodes in every 100 syllables uttered.

*The child exhibits twitching of lips and blinks furiously while repeating a word/ part of a word.

*The child is uncomfortable when talking.

*You believe there is something unusual about the child’s speech patterns.

Children can be helped a great deal through timely intervention. By needlessly delaying evaluation, parents miss an important window of opportunity when stuttering is treatable. If you have any concerns about your child’s speech, it is important to get expert advice as soon as possible.

Your speech and language therapist will ask you for information to understand how your child communicates. As a parent, you need to be closely involved with the expert’s assessment of your child.

The therapist will also want to speak to your child and observe his communication development. For instance, the way he talks to other children, his understanding and development of language, his pronunciation, his vocabulary etc.

If the child is inhibited during the session, then you could record his spontaneous speech at home and provide it to the therapist for analysis.

After the assessment there will be time for you and your therapist to discuss your child’s speech and any concerns you may have.

As a parent, you would do well to:

*Spend quality time every day with your child in a calm and relaxed atmosphere.

*Pause for a second before you answer him or ask him a question. This slow, unhurried way of speaking gives your child time before answering.

*Slow down when you talk to your child. This will make it easier for him to follow what you are saying. It will also help him feel less rushed. This can be far more helpful then telling a child to slow down.

*Show your child that you are interested in what he says, not how he says it.

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