Q: Good day doctor. My four-year old nephew, all of a sudden, started stammering about two weeks ago. Please, how do we stop this act?
A: Between the ages of 2 and 5 years, some children will go through a phase of stuttering (also called dysfluency or stammering). The child who stutters may find it difficult to start a sentence or word, prolong a word, repeat it, make no sound for some words/syllable etc which may be accompanied by eye blinks, fist clenching etc. Stuttering is usually worse when the child is fatigued, stressed or excited.
Usually at the stated ages, this may not be a source of concern as it’s part of the process of learning to speak as their language skills are often not developed enough to keep pace with all the things they want to say 🙂
There are children who are more pre-disposed to stuttering than others and they include: children with a family history of people who stutter in their families (if that family member is an adult who is still stuttering till date, it increases the chances that the child is not just going through a developmental phase but actually having a speech problem), being a boy (it appears that boys are more likely to stutter than girls) and children who have other speech and language problems.
Most children who start stuttering before the age of 5 years are likely to stop without any intervention, on their own…between about 6 months to 24 months. However, if the child’s stuttering appears to be getting worse, is associated with facial movements or even body movements, continues after 5 years or there are efforts made by the child to avoid speech, you may need to take him in to see his paediatrician who can point you in the direction of a speech therapist.
In the interim, while he stutters, try not to put him under more pressure. This worsens the problem. Other helpful hints include:
• Maintain eye contact when speaking with him and do not be impatient.
• Don’t also try to help him finish up his sentence.
• Speak in a calm, unhurried and measured manner. He might be encouraged to do the same.
• Try not to criticize him and be lavish with praise when it’s due.
• Feel free to discuss the situation with him in a non-threatening and judgmental manner.
Hopefully, this will pass in a little while. In the meantime, just love him as he is 😀
Have a great day, y’all 😀