So what can parents do if their child stutters? MH speaks to the experts.
WORDS MING E. WONG
The temptation to finish his sentences for him or to hurry him up must be great but this is exactly what they should not do.
Jiahui Tan, a Singaporean speech therapist, lists very succinctly the following dos and don’ts:
The gist of these tips is not to raise too much of an alarm as that might create unnecessary stress and self-consciousness and exacerbate the situation instead. This is your beloved child—so what if he needs a little longer to tell you something?
If you know that the stuttering has become a serious problem, then it is better to seek help sooner rather than later. In Singapore, there are many private and government clinics offering speech therapy and most would have had some experience with child stutterers. Two of the most established clinics are probably the Fluency Team at Singapore General Hospital and the Fluency Service at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital. However you will need a referral from a polyclinic doctor or any physician practising in Singapore to get an appointment. A doctor can establish if the stuttering is momentarily caused by a head injury or some other medical problems.
During the appointment, a speech therapist will speak to both parent and child to gain an understanding of the problem. Sometimes the therapist might make a video or audio recording for diagnostic reasons. A standard assessment session can last an hour or more.
Professional clinicians or speech therapists use a few treatment standards such as the Lidcombe Program or Smooth Speech Program. The Lidcombe Program, developed by the Australian Stuttering Research Centre, is an early intervention behaviour-based programme for children aged two to six years old. Parents are highly involved as they are trained to listen and to tease out stutter-free speech.
Positive reinforcement and gentle correction are necessary to help the child reach a low level of stuttering or to not stutter at all.
Treatments can vary from weekly individual sessions or intensive sessions lasting several days. Even after the initial hurdle, fluency booster sessions may be recommended to help monitor speech strategies.
The good thing about our socially interconnected world is that sufferers and parents of stutterers today need not feel alone or helpless. They can reach out to communities all over the world for solace, sympathies, encouragement and suggestions. Many child stutterers today show little or no trace of their past problems but painful memories of their stutters mean that they are still willing to help. The website of the non-profit The Stuttering Foundation, active since 1947, is full of inspiring and motivational stories. Their online store sells a lot of books, CDs and awareness material but also a good-humoured T-shirt with the words, ‘Stuttering is OK. Because what I say is worth repeating.’