Sunday, January 23, 2011

Stuttering Advice

I was contacted recently by a very loving and caring mother of a primary school child who asked my opinion about some concerns she has with her son's speech. With her permission, I am posting our exchange here for your review. Keep in mind, these are only my opinions and she is aware of that. Feel free to leave your own comments about her questions or about the opinions that I have offered to her.

Hi Tony,
My son has been stuttering on and off since age 2 1/2 (he's 5 now)  I keep thinking he's growing out of it and then it starts to get worse again.  Then things smooth out .  Frustrating to say the least.  I have been contemplating speech therapy for a long time, but have some fears surrounding that.  He currently doesn't seem bothered by his speech so we haven't even talked with him about it yet.  He is a shy, quiet kid in kindergarten so his teacher hasn't even notice a stutter yet.  I kind of think he is being quiet because it's hard for him to talk sometimes.  Yesterday he didn't want to do Show and Tell.  I don't know if that is because he was feeling shy and anxious or couldn't/ wouldn't talk.  What are your thoughts on speech therapy for a 5 year old?  How can I take him to weekly speech therapy sessions to try and improve his speech, while at the same time let him know it's ok to stutter?  My Dad has stuttered his whole life and didn't like going to speech therapy.  Same for a cousin who stutters.  Everything I read about stuttering says early intervention is best, but I am still scared.  What do you reccomend?
Thanks for your blog!
Very Sincerely,

My response:

Hi, Karen! Thanks for writing to me!

In my non professional opinion, I think (generally) 5 years of age is too young for speech therapy. My reasoning is that, if he isn't aware of it yet and it isn't impeding him, I think therapy would make him suddenly aware of the stutter and would greatly lend to him developing a complex about it and could easily lead to low self esteem. I would definitely wait until it actually becomes a problem. For example, when he begins to complain about it or he seems impeded in academics or socially or when other kids begin teasing him.

Also, consider that it might disappear on its own! Given that speech therapy does little to stop or end stuttering, he would be okay either way. In my experience, research and opinion, speech therapy mostly only helps the stutterer become more comfortable with being a stutterer. In my case and for the many years I went through therapy as a child, it didn't noticeably help at all. If there was improvement, it was indiscernible by me.

Lastly, and if I am preaching to the choir, forgive me, often parents take on the burden of their child's perceived problem and in their zeal to rescue them, they do too much for the child, things that aren't necessary. Stuttering hasn't impeded my life in any measurable way (thought it does for those with a chronic stutter). It has only caused internal frustration and low self esteem problems as a child. Without stuttering, however, your child will still face internal frustrations for other things and, for some reason, we all face a measure of low self esteem for one reason or other. Stuttering will likely not ruin his life and, conversely, not having a stutter doesn't guarantee that he will be successful or happy. True happiness is achieved by accepting what you have been given and refusing to be a victim. :)

I offer this just as friendly advice. The best you can do for him is to let him be a child and just keep an eye out on his social and academic development. If there is a problem, you will either notice in due time or maybe his teachers will alert you to the problem. Until then, I would say it is not yet a problem and that is a good thing!

I hope to hear from you in the future on his progress! Good luck to you and to him and May All Good Things Come To You. :)

Bright Blessings

(I will post the follow up emails soon!)


The Crow ! said...

Dear Karen:
Catching it early is very important.
I must disagree with Tony's view that stuttering is unlikely to ruin a life: it can, it does, and often.
But I do agree, that doing "too much" can be harmful too.
What is causing the stutter? Any idea? Is your home life blissful? Or are there underlying problems?
My latest brainwave on this is:
Can you help develop in him an interest in Bagpipe music?
I know this sounds absurd, but the pipes have a background drone that is very interesting...
Please read this post:
Best wishes:

p.s: Nice post Tony :)
I am sure I am not the only one who has been eagerly awaiting it.

Stuttering Stanley said...

Hi, Crow! Thanks for the comment. Truthfully, I know many stutters and I don't know of any who have had their lives ruined by stuttering. I mostly see people who succeed DESPITE the stutter. That being said, my experience is subjective and the advice I give is only my opinion. Best wishes!!

The Crow ! said...

Hello Stanley :)
Possibly we are both right and both wrong:
I have spent a lot of time on Stuttering Forums, and looking at the surface, one tends to not notice much. But looking deeper, there are myriad consequences to stuttering.
In my own case, my life was ruined, until it wasn't.
So although stuttering can ruin a life, there is no reason the ruination has to be permanent.
Again, in my own case, my stutter was by far the worst I have ever witnessed. And still, in a mere 45 years (:)) I was able to overcome it.

Stuttering Stanley said...

Well said, Crow. So happy you were able to overcome your stutter. :)

Rebecca said...

I would agree that 5 is probably too young for therapy. Also, if he's not bothered by the stuttering, then he probably won't be helped by therapy because he won't want to be there and won't want to pay attention. I've heard that stuttering in small children will often work itself out later. If he's not bothered by it, I'd let it go until he is so that therapy is his choice. It might do him more good if he's actually up to it.

Bobby said...

Someone asked me the same thing the other day about her 4 year old son, and I said the same thing: too young. There's a good chance that a kid that age will grow out of it.

On the flip side, my understanding is that the sooner help can be provided, the better, so I also recommended a speech pathologist that she could contact about it.

Great post, great blog. Keep up the good work.

Stuttering Stanley said...

Thanks, Bobby. You are correct, she should consult with somebody. Thanks for the comment!

JD said...

I had a similar case too,,my uncle and two other cousins were stutterers,and i started stuttering at a young age,but my parents ignored it and thought i'd grow out of it but it it just got worse upto my teenage ,,and now i'm an adult stutterer,,having lived a life of fear,worry and social avoidance,,most of my life,but this is only one side of the coin...i do think 5 yrs is too early for therapy,and you should let him develop a little...

Stuttering Stanley said...

Yes, it's hard to know exactly what to do for every case. Everyone's situation is unique. :)

Vik Vein said...

I don’t also think that it can ruin someone’s life. At school I had an amazing teacher who had the same speech problem too and the only problem with him was that he didn’t tell me how to buy admission essay  But seriously, he was a great teacher who sounded really clear for every student. At the same time, I can understand mother’s worries and I think that you should try to do something, at least to realize what the reason of the problem is. Sometimes it happens because of the inner state or articulation.

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