What Does a Parent Do When a Child Stutters or Stammers

A parent can become concerned when their young child has trouble getting their words out. This can be recognized as stuttering or stammering. Stuttered speech can include the repetition of words or parts of words, or, extending speech sounds.

The first question the parent asks is “is this normal?” The second question is “where do I go to make sure this is not a long-term problem?”

Child with speech therapistA young child beginning to develop their language skills may temporarily stutter. Learning to communicate through speech presents challenges to children as their speaking skills are trying to catch up with the speed of their mind and sometimes lack of personal patience. While most stuttering is outgrown, a stutter can continue into adulthood. Here are some considerations, as stated in the A Guide for Parents of Children Who Stutter:

  • When the child involuntarily prolongs sounds, is unable to produce certain sounds, or repeats a sound, we can say he or she is at risk for stuttering. Stuttering will usually begin between the ages of three and six. Onset is usually gradual but may be quite sudden.
  • At the time most children are developing complex speech and language skills, a lot is happening. It is a difficult process. They may repeat words and phrases and use many “ands” while they are formulating a sentence. This type of behavior is normal.
  • If the majority of your child’s “stutterings” are part-word repetitions (Mo-mo-mommy), if many of them consist of three or more repetitions per sound, (e.g., b-b-b-ball), if you child prolongs sounds for more than a second or so (ssssssoup), or shows signs of struggling to “get his words out,” we can start thinking in terms of the child’s “stuttering,” and begin to formulate what to do about it.

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Speech Language Pathologist Can Aid in Reduction of a Foreign Accent

Individuals that have learned English as a second language may recognize the need for assistance pronouncing words in a more understandable manner. This need may occur even if an adult has been an English speaker for many years. The person may recognize the need to improve communication skills to enhance their public speaking or interpersonal communication skills.

Public Speaking Accent FreeA foreign language speaker wanting to improve their pronunciation can enter a classroom setting for ESL (English as a Second Language). This approach generally uses the method of listening to words pronounced correctly and then imitating that sound. Unfortunately, many people are unable to ‘imitate’ sounds, although they think they are saying a word correctly. However, the person can also reach out to a Speech Language Pathologist.

A Speech Pathologist is able to assist a bilingual adult that is seeking improved communication abilities, even though this problem is not considered a speech disorder. The need to improve an accent is considered a speech modification in Speech Language Pathology. A Speech Pathologist teaches the person ‘how’ to produce the sound…where to place the tongue and how to shape the lips so that the word is intelligible. For example, foreigner speakers often pronounce the words ‘cup’, ‘cop,’ and ‘cap’ the same way. There are subtle differences in tongue placement and duration of sound that change the word.

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A Lateral Lisp May Not Be Recognized by the Child With The Lisp

A  lisp in a child can be developmental or from incorrect placement of the tongue on the roof of the mouth, such as a lateral lisp.  A lateral lisp is caused by the child directing air flow down the sides of the tongue rather than directly down the middle of the tongue.  This causes the pronunciation of the letters  ‘S’ and ‘Z’ to be muffled or slushy.

Father reading with daughterWhat may not be obvious to the parent is that the child with a lisp does not perceive themselves as speaking differently from the children or adults around them. Therefore, waiting for the child to “grow out of it”  is not advisable, because children very rarely outgrow a ‘lateral’ lisp. The longer a child continues to pronounce words incorrectly, the more difficult it can be to correct the problem as the child grows older.

The result of waiting too long can be especially problematic as the child enters school. The child has the probability of being teased by peers and will not understand why. The child will perceive themselves as speaking flawlessly.

Beth Fine, of Fine Communication in Manhattan, New York, New York, had a young patient that, as an 8th grade student, had her dreams of having leading roles in school plays shattered because of her lateral lisp. She did not perceive her speech to be any different from her peers. With speech therapy, the student became aware of correct tongue placement and corrected her lisp in  a relatively short period of time. Now a college student, she speaks in front of large groups of people and has chosen to be a mentor to other girls.

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Early Evaluation of a Child’s Communication Development is Critical

The ability to communicate is essential to a person’s life. The development of communication skills develop early in life when we are children. According to the National Institute of Health in an article called Speech and Language Developmental Milestones, “the first 3 years of life, when the brain is developing and maturing, is the most intensive period for acquiring speech and language skills.”

sad child

Early detection of any communication impairment in a child is critical because the ability to communicate is essential to learning. In Frequently Asked Questions: Speech and Language Disorders in the School Setting, the question is asked “How may a speech-language disorder affect school performance?”  The answer is “Children with communication disorders frequently do not perform at grade level. They may struggle with reading, have difficulty understanding and expressing language, misunderstand social cues, avoid attending school, show poor judgment, and have difficulty with tests.”  Deficits and delays in speech and language skills can negatively impact the normal progression of learning skills.

If you suspect your child may have a delay in communication development, an evaluation will provide valuable information. It is never too early to have your child evaluated. For children as young as 12-15 months, an evaluation can ease concerns and provide a base-line for follow-up visits to ensure continued progress.

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Therapy Services

Therapy:

We believe that the most important thing in one’s life is the ability to communicate, to impart information and express one’s thoughts, feelings, and ideas.

  • Therapy is individualized and enjoyable
  • Sessions are generally 30 minutes
  • Number of sessions per week depends on the nature and severity of the problem
  • Therapy is provided in our office, which we have found to be the optimal environment with the least distractions
  • Homework and materials are given to you
  • The time frame for therapy varies for every individual
  • Goals for children are often achieved via toys, games, and prizes
  • We use an eclectic therapeutic approach because one technique is not appropriate for everyone

photoWe are unique because we have several New York State licensed speech-language pathologists, including bilingual Spanish, with expertise and experience in a wide array of communication disorders…therefore, we are able to provide services for all ages, in all areas of communication.

We believe in an eclectic approach to therapy. We draw on more than 40 years experience, which has taught us that using only one approach to remediating a problem may not be the fastest, most efficient way to meet a client’s needs.

Learn more about us.