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Oh no! My two year old has a stammer...!

Oh no! My two year old has a stammer!

Bismillah al Rahman al Rahim

I have met this familiar panic often. Over the years, hundreds of parents and educators have asked me about stammering, and how to resolve this tricky speech problem.

I felt the concern and panic myself when my youngest son was two. He was hardly talking at that stage, and when he did talk, he seemed not to be able to get his words out properly!

“M…m…m….m… mummy!”

His struggle to get that far left us both unable to get any further with what he really wanted to say!

As a Mum and speech and language therapist, I was supposed to know what to do! Now, with far more experience of stammering in all kinds of contexts and having treated so many children and adults towards overcoming this issue, here are the steps I took to address my own son’s stammer:

What's the first thing I did?

I squashed down any fear and anxiety I had about my son. I would be able to help him overcome this: it was not insurmountable!

This belief is paramount as the first step in dealing with your child’s stammer.

I then rang the local Speech Therapy clinic to make an appointment - but cancelled, because during the waiting time of a couple of months, my son and I had resolved the problem!

I believe this attitude is essential to adopt if you want to help your child out of their communication difficulty.

Those few weeks have always stayed with me, as a significant combination of desperate maternal reaction and action, tempered with professional and scientific knowledge of how little ones acquire the incredible skill of talking. I gave him a lot of 'special' time in playing and talking with him. and I followed the steps below, when he was trying to say something and struggling..

Relax! He needs you not to be worried.

Why relax? Because this blockage in talking is usually just a normal part of his learning to communicate. Boys tend to stammer more than girls. And many children go through a dysfluent stage when they are learning to talk, especially around two and a half

But what do you do at that panic moment when your little one struggles to tell you something? Here are some practical steps:

1. Give your child time and your full attention

Stop what you are doing, reassure him, tell him you are listening, you know what he says is important!

3. Smile and make it light, keep the feeling happy!

He won't want to say anything to you if you have a frown on your face or look anxious! Keep smiling and patiently wait for him to get the words out. While you do that...

4. Try and think of, or prompt questions about, what he might be wanting to say, but do not say it for him

Ask him about it to help prompt the answer from him:

“Are you wanting to tell me about your blue car?” or

“Did something happen at the park?”

5. Praise him when he does manage to tell you about it

Remember to praise his effort and the process, not just that ‘he spoke’!

“The way you said you want to play with your blue car so nice and clearly was so good!”

Give him lots of opportunities to talk with you and hear different ways of saying things.

Do try these tips out and let me know in the comments below if any of them work for you!

Remember that the process of learning to talk suddenly gets much broader around the two-year mark. Those “terrible two's” problems are often about your child not being able to express what he wants or does not want, rather than simply random, spontaneous displays of difficult behaviour.

Often this ‘stammer’ is a sign of your little one trying to get all the right words together in the right order in their heads, then transferring them to their mouths and tongue to say in the correct way.

Be patient, and give them time – adopt the attitude that you can overcome this with your child and try the tips above. I wish you well, and look forward to hearing about your successes and challenges in the comments below!

Watch out for more articles containing more in-depth and long term strategies for dealing with your child’s stammer!

Good luck!​​


Margaret J. Kulsoom Orchard
Highly Specialist Speech & Language Therapist

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