5 Things to do to Support Children and Young People with Stammers

October 22nd, 2021 is Stammer Awareness Day and 8% of children will experience a stammer at some point in their lives. In this blog, we will share some knowledge, tips, and techniques that you can use to help those with a stammer express themselves and feel more understood.

Stammering is a speech condition that usually starts in children between the ages of 2-5, although it can start later. A stammer can develop suddenly or gradually over time but, only up to 3% of children will continue to stammer into adulthood. Even though stammering is nothing to be ashamed of children and young people who have a stammer are at a greater risk of experiencing bullying and this can have long-term consequences on their mental health and wellbeing throughout their lives.  

Living with a stammer can cause children or young people to feel alone or excluded from their friends. Many living with a stammer cope by trying to hide it. This is not something to be encouraged as it can lead the individual to experience more stressful/negative situations, which could impact and worsen their stammer.

Stammering can be highly variable, can come and go and worsen, sometimes depending on the situation. 

Here are the 5 things you can do: 

1. Talk about it

Talking to a person about their stammer gives both parties the opportunity to acknowledge it and helps to take away the negative stigma surrounding it. Talking to someone about their stammer, in a purposeful, matter of fact way helps to not make a big deal out of it and gives the child or young person a chance to tell you things that would be beneficial for them in different situations such as at school, sports clubs or after school activities. With this information, you are able to make the child or young person feel more comfortable.  

People living with stammers have expressed their frustrations with others for not having patience with them whilst they speak. As a stammer can cause a person to have tense jerky speech, stretch words out or repeat certain parts of words, it can mean that it might take them longer to say what they would like to. This is why the next point is so important.  

2. Patience

Having patience can include not interrupting or finishing their sentences. They know what they want to say, it might just take them a little longer, so give them the time to do so. Keeping eye contact is another way of having patience. Loss of eye contact can look like you have become bored with waiting to hear what they have to say and can be very discouraging. Also, putting extra pressure on the induvial by telling them to ‘hurry up’ or ‘speak slowly’ are terms that can do more harm than good and can often make the person stammer more because they feel pressured to speak faster.  

Sometimes an individual’s behavior can change due to a stammer. This can include, not wanting to get involved or refusing to participate in certain activities or tasks. How you deal with it could make a big difference.  

3. Encouragement/Praise

This is something that is important for all children, however, for someone with a stammer it is even more important as simple tasks can be a lot harder. Praise can be a big confidence booster and can encourage children and young people to keep trying even when they find things difficult. Encouragement is also essential to show them that you believe in them, even if they don’t get something right the first time.

Praise and encouragement are important for younger children because, if you can increase their self-esteem and confidence at a young age there is more chance that it will stay with them as they grow up. We should also apply this point to those older children as there can be more risk of confidence knocking experiences as they get older. 

4. Be there for them

This point may seem obvious, but it is something that can easily be overlooked. Be a friendly face, someone that children and young people with stammers know they can talk to. Providing a safe environment can help them to feel more secure and comfortable coming to you to discuss their stammer or any other issues. Talking to the individual more frequently can also make them feel more comfortable to come to you when/if they are being teased or bullied and, by developing a good report, can also help you to identify bullying concerns earlier.

The last point can be a little trickier, however, some might say it is one of the most important things to do to help someone with a stammer.  

5. Refer to a Speech and Language Therapist

Around 75-80% of children stop stammering either naturally or with speech therapy. This stat alone highlights the important part that this point can play in a child's life. The sooner a child or young person can start working with a Speech and Language therapist the better, as they can provide help and support to allow them to improve their communication. It does not have to be left to the child or young person living with a stammer to figure things out on their own.  

For more information and further sources of support follow the links below. 

Helpful resources/further reading 

Author
Kelly Ofasi
Marketing

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