You may have noticed some changes in your child’s stammering since they stopped going to school and you as a family have been in lockdown. They might be stammering more or they might be stammering less. Either way we encourage parents to focus on WHAT their child is saying rather than HOW they are saying it. Our goal is to build your child’s confidence to communicate whether they stammer or not.
Here are some tips on how to support your child with their stammer at this time:
We recommend you set up regular Special Times with your child. This is a 5-minute play session, where you and your child go to a room where distractions or interruptions are unlikely and you are able to give them your undivided attention. It is important to ask your child for Special Time, to let them decide what to play with during your time together, to keep your time to only 5 minutes and to listen to what your child is saying rather than how they are saying it. We recommend each parent having separate Special Times with their child and doing between 3 and 5 Special Times each per week.
Parents of children who stammer often tell us how their child thrives on being well rested and having enough sleep. You might be finding it hard to keep to your child’s usual bedtime routine at the moment due to the lighter evenings and the changes to your daily routine. Ensuring your child is getting enough sleep may be helpful in supporting them with their stammer at this time. If parents tell us that bedtime is an area that they find challenging to manage, we explore the issue as part
of therapy and help them to set up a bedtime routine.
If your child is stammering more at this time, we recommend acknowledging this with them and to do this in a matter of fact way and without judgement e.g. “I noticed you were stammering more when talking to Daddy this morning and you kept going” or “That word got a bit stuck didn’t it? Well done you kept going even though it took a bit longer to say”. By responding in this way you are encouraging your child to keep going and reassuring them that it is okay to stammer. Alternatively your child may be stammering less at this time and we also recommend acknowledging this, again in a matter of fact way and without judgement, “I noticed you stammering less when you were chatting to Daddy this morning” or “Your words don’t seem to be getting stuck today”. Remember you do not want to show concern or disappointment with increased stammering or to celebrate the fact that your child is stammering less.
Parents sometimes express concern about family turn taking and the potential impact on the child who stammers. Your family’s typical turn taking patterns may be more apparent at the moment as you all spend more time in each other’s company. During therapy we often arrange a family session to help with family turn taking. All family members attend and we brainstorm rules for good turn taking and play a microphone game. This game involves the family sitting in a circle with a microphone and the aim is to make up a story. Only the person who has the microphone is allowed to talk. One person starts the story, replaces the microphone and whoever wants to continue with the story picks it up. Family members quickly identify what rules they are following and which ones they would benefit from working on. It might be helpful to stick the rules up on the fridge to remind everyone of the skills involved in being good at taking turns.
If you are feeling concerned about your child’s stammering at this time, contact your speech and language therapist. Sometimes a chat with your therapist can alleviate your concerns. You can review what you’ve done in previous sessions or they can give you some advice. If your NHS therapist is not available you can make use of the helplines at www.stamma.org or www.michaelpalincentreforstammering.org, or you can contact an independent speech and language therapist specialising in stammering. You can find them at www.asltip.com. Many therapists, like myself are still taking referrals and offering assessment and therapy via Skype or Zoom.
For more information about these therapy tips see Kelman & Nicholas (2020) Palin Parent-Child Interaction Therapy for Early Childhood Stammering. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.