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!)