Preschool Stuttering? 5 Easy Tips for Adults

Preschool Boy

by S. Michaels, H. Miller, P. Norwood, H. Petrusa, A. Samuels (CHCCS SLP Pre-K Team)

Everyone has normal dysfluencies, especially preschoolers.   Preschool age children are learning the “adult way” of forming sounds into words and sentences.  They do not yet have the speech motor coordination that mature speakers have acquired.  In other words, their mouths are trying to keep up with what their brains want to say.  Therefore, preschoolers may hesitate to speak, revise what they say, or repeat a word or phrase multiple times before conveying their idea.  You may wonder if this is stuttering – most often it is not.

According to J. Scott Yaruss (Yaruss, Scott. Young Children Who Stutter.  New York: National Stuttering Association, 2013. Print), there are a few red flags that indicate more than a typical dysfluency in a preschool child such as:

  • Part-word repetition (li-li-li-like this)
  • Prolongations (Loooooook at the snow)
  • Blocking (l….ike this)

This is not an exhaustive list.  You may see other behaviors or repetitions of sounds or words that seem outside the norm of other kids. There are many factors to consider when differentiating normal dysfluency from stuttering.  Talk to your speech-language pathologist about your concerns.  

Whether the child is experiencing normal dysfluencies or true stuttering, here are 5 suggestions for teachers and adults:

  1. Turtle Talk – Speak to children in a non-rushed manner all the time
  2. Pause, Think, Tell – Adult models a delayed response  – “Hmm, let me think about that….(3 seconds later)…Yes, I do like pizza.”
  3. Rephrase – Adult rephrases child’s message – “Oh so you did not like it when the dog jumped up and down”
  4. Praise – Praise child’s attempts at speaking! The message is for them to KEEP talking despite ‘bumpy’ speech i.e. “You have great ideas!”
  5. Reduce competition for simultaneous speaking – Remind others that it is this child’s turn to speak and then it will be the next person’s turn.  i.e “We have time to speak and time to listen.”
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