Perth Speech Therapy have trained Speech Pathologists who deliver well evidenced therapy to children who have a stutter. We use the Lidcombe approach to address stuttering.
What is stuttering?
Stuttering is a physical disorder of the speech motor system. It is defined by the World Health Organisation as “a disorder in the rhythm of speech, in which the individual knows precisely what he/she wishes to say, but at the time is unable to say it because of an involuntary, repetitive prolongation or cessation of sound”.
What causes stuttering?
The definitive cause of stuttering is unknown, however genetic links have been identified, with stuttering tending to run in families. Research suggests that children who stutter have a reduced ability to cope with complex speech, resulting in their speech muscles “overloading”.
Stuttering often emerges between 2 ½ and 3 ½ years. This is when children experience large vocabulary growths which in turn increases the demands on their speech motor systems.
A stutter may develop gradually or suddenly, and may appear and disappear in seemingly random cycles. If a stutter is observed, it is recommended that the child is referred to a Speech Pathologist as early as possible. Every child’s stutter presents differently, and a Speech Pathologist can advise you on whether your child requires intervention, or whether a ‘watch and wait’ approach is appropriate. Different approaches are taken depending on the child’s presentation and severity.
Approximately 3-5% of children stutter, with a higher proportion of males than females (4:1). There are no differences in intelligence, coordination and parenting styles between children who stutter and children who do not.
There are three main types of stutters:
- Repetitions: can occur in whole words (e.g. “Can-can-can I play?”) or parts of words (e.g. “C-c-can I play?”)
- Prolongations: involves stretching out a sound in a word (e.g. “Can I plaaaaaaay?”
- Blocks: a break in the speech where the child gets “stuck” is unable to get the word out (e.g. “Can I……… play?”).
Research has demonstrated the importance of early intervention, as without treatment, your child’s stutter may be carried on into adulthood. An adult stutter is more difficult to treat as an adult’s speech motor system is fully matured and not as flexible as those in a child. Therefore, therapy is more successful the earlier treatment is commenced.
Reference (from Australian Stuttering Research Centre): https://www.uts.edu.au/research-and-teaching/our-research/australian-stuttering-research-centre
The following ideas provide parents with ways they can support their child when they are trying to speak:
Providing longer pauses between conversational turns.
Providing your child with time to speak without them feeling hurried. Be focussed and show you are listening. Acknowledge what they are saying and repeat what they have said to make sure they feel as if they have been heard.
Allowing a slightly longer pause between conversational turns can help decrease this perceived time pressure and may help reduce the demands on the child’s speech system associated with that pressure.
Slow down your own rate of speech.
Modelling an unhurried manner of speaking models to the child how to slow down when they are speaking.
Reduce the number of questions you ask in succession.
When reading to or playing with your child, try to reduce the number of questions that you ask, especially questions that require a long answer. Alternatively, ask yes/no questions or questions that only require several word answers (e.g. which animal do you think will trick the elephant?”). This helps to reduce the demand on their speech system.
Follow the child’s lead in play.
Following the child’s lead in play may help reduce the amount of verbal instructions and questioning during play. When playing with your child, always show engagement and encouragement, and make eye contact to reduce any potential frustration.
Decrease length and complexity of language.
Children often copy the sentence structure, grammar and vocabulary used by their parents. It is thus important to reduce the complexity of your language, for example by using simple sentences, when communicating with your child. The helps to create a less demanding speaking environment.
You DO NOT need a doctor’s referral to see a Speech pathologist.
Perth Speech Therapy provides assessments and therapy for all children 2 to 12 years. All sessions are tailored to the child’s individual needs. There are two clinics, in Melville and Cottesloe, as well as a mobile service. Perth Speech therapy provides services to day care centres, schools and makes home visits.