Wondering how you can help improve your child's fluency at home? Here are some strategies you can use:
• One factor which may affect fluency is the rate at which the child and those around him talk. Often times, children try to talk fast to keep pace with the adult’s rate of speech. When children hurry, especially if they are only two, three or four years old, they often repeat and hesitate because their tongues, lips and jaws simply cannot move as quickly in a coordinated manner. That said, if the adult attempts to slow their rate of speech, your child may naturally slow his rate to match that of the adult.
• Young children’s disfluencies have been known to increase with the more questions they are asked. Much of adults’ verbal communication with children is question-asking in nature. Questions put children ‘on the spot’ to elicit a response. That said, try to reduce by the number questions you ask by 50%. Rather, try “commenting” on what your child is doing. For example: Wow, that ice cream must taste so good! Rather than, “Is that ice cream good?” Also, be sure to leave silences, rather than feeling the need to talk consistently.
• Avoid putting your child “on display” by asking them to perform for others. Examples include: “Tell Grandpa what you got for your Birthday,” Or “Tell Mom what we did today.” Alternatively, you might retell the story and allow your child to contribute when/if he wants.
• For children as young as three, disfluencies may decrease on occasion if adults echo a portion of what they have just said rather than engage them in a conversation. Please note: if your child stutters, simply echo fluently what he said without calling his attention to the stuttering. The suggestion would be that only the two parents do some echoing and plan to stop the echoing gradually in one to two months. However, if the child responds negatively to the echoing or considers such to be teasing, discontinue this strategy immediately.
• Children’s disfluencies may increase when they try to get us to listen to them. Many young children want us to look at them and want to be able to see our eyes when they talk. They do not want us to continue with our activity of the moment, such as fixing a meal or reading as we listen. They would like 100 percent of our attention. If it isn’t possible to give your undivided attention at the moment, ask your child to wait a moment.
• For some children ages 2 to 4 years, disfluencies appear to occur to their stage of language development, at least in part. The child is learning new words and linking them together in sentences. Children often are disfluent at this stage of vocabulary acquisition and language formulation. Your goal as a parent is to reduce language development pressure. You can enjoy being together without trying to “teach” or “direct.” For example, try table top crafts or sand box activities, or an activity that lends itself to ‘doing’ without feeling a need to talk constantly. Therefore, the focus is shifted on the activity itself, rather than the speech.