Stuttering is speaking with involuntary repetition and is often known as stammering. While it sounds rather innocent and common, a person with a stutter has a much different experience than a normal person.
For a normal person, a quick stutter can happen during moments filled with anxiety. For a person who stutters, it feels like the mouth is taking the shape of a wrecking ball and sending it straight towards the elegance and intelligence of the spoken language.
I know this because I’m a person who stutters.
“Hu-hu-hu-i-i-i, my na-na-na-name is Juh-juh-Josh,” is what I utter the first time I meet people. For some weird reason, a person’s name is often the hardest thing to say.
Imagine dealing with that introduction every time you meet someone. Luckily, there is help available for many people struggling with stuttering. For me, it was the constant support my parents gave me. They enrolled me in speech language pathology programs, and with the help of my grandparents, they opened so many doors for me. I was lucky, many other people who stutter don’t get that support.
Due to the support I was given, I felt I should give back. As of now, there is no cure for stuttering. I can’t provide a magical cure in three easy steps. What I can do is help the parents of people who stutter, because development starts with the parents.
Sometimes the hardest part of about helping a person who stutters is listening to them. They might sound like a CD that skips every line. It can be easy to stop them and tell them to start over. Make them take a deep breath. Maybe slowing them down will help them speak more fluently.
I can assure you, all of these are bad ideas. Let the kid speak.
A child can feel more pressure if an adult tells them this. It’s someone they look up to. Even though the intentions are there, it’s an indirect way of saying how uncomfortable it is to listen to the stutter. Anxiety skyrockets along with tension. It can be a detriment to a child’s self-esteem. It might make them feel like they can’t do anything right.
The best thing a parent can do is listen. For many kids who stutter, they can have a hard time opening up to people. This is a great opportunity for a kid to learn to trust their parents. It gives the parents an opportunity to get into the life of their child. Perhaps, these moments of bonding can result in the child seeking advice and opening up during the stressful teenage years. It’s important to have someone will genuinely listen and in those moments of need.
2. Speaking should be fun
For many people who stutter, speaking is a chore. It isn’t something they look forward to doing. I think I was kind of an outlier in this sense. I grew up with very social parents, so I kind of took it from them. Growing up, I understood that talking to people shouldn’t be a chore. I could emulate my parents after seeing them talk to so many people.
It can often be difficult to make speaking fun for someone. For example, most of the time working with speech pathologists is pretty boring. It isn’t very fun. There are different rewards a parent could do to help their young child. Perhaps on the first day of school, challenge them to meet a few new people, and if they do, take them out for ice cream.
If a child loves stories, have them make up a story. Not something about their day, but something involving wizards, gnomes and a midget king who turns people into maggots. This creative and novel thinking is good for development. Plus it gives them a chance to relax and create a world that is exactly how they want it. This relaxation is a great way to forget about a stutter.
3. Look for others who might stutter
Feeling alone is natural for people that stutter. Only one percent of the country stutters. A child might feel alone because they don’t know anyone that stutters. To help a child, help them find another person that stutters. Just knowing they’re not alone can be so helpful.
While there are many resources out there, one of the number one resources is the National Stuttering Association. For me, I attend meetings at the Royal Oak, Michigan in metro Detroit. The National Stuttering Association website has a list of all of the meetings around the country. They are a great resource for people who stutter. It’s a reminder that a person who stutters isn’t the only one. It can remind a child that they’re not the only one facing challenges with their speech.