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There is a genetic predisposition to stuttering, that is why when assessing the child, parents should always be asked if there is anyone else in the family who stutters or has stuttered.
The problem of stuttering is based on an initial weakness of the linguistic system of genetic origin (coordination difficulties, respiratory difficulties ...) added to a triggering factor, such as a lot of environmental pressure or variables of the child himself.
In children, stuttering goes through three phases, the primary stage, in which the child is not yet aware of his problem, the transitory stage, in which it begins to be so, and the last stage in which the fear of stuttering itself predominates.
In the first years of life, around three or four years, a developmental stuttering may appear, in which the child tends to repeat whole words. It can be considered something evolutionary and treatment is not always necessary. In 80% of these cases, stuttering in this group disappears before the age of 16.
Once past preschool age, stuttering occurs between 0.7% and 1% of the general population, being more frequent in boys than in girls. When the child is older than 5 years and the stuttering traits continue or have accentuated, then it is advisable to assess whether there is a problem and if an intervention is necessary.
When the child has dysphemia the following behaviors may appear:
- High frequency of repetitions of words or part of words
- The articulation of vowels is prolonged
- Muscle tensions linked to speech
- Alteration of the ratio of speech and speaking time
- The child can be blocked when starting a word (clonic stuttering), repeating syllables or entire words (tonic stuttering), or can even do a mixture of both (mixed stuttering).
- The alteration of fluency interferes with academic performance, or with social communication.
- There is no sensory or motor speech deficit that explains the difficulties previously described.
When the problem interferes in the child's life (he begins to be aware of his stuttering, he seems sad, he finds it difficult to talk with friends, or with new people, for fear of “getting stuck”), without a doubt there is to intervene. However, if parents or family members are able to identify the problem in those previous stages in which the child has not yet developed the fear of stuttering, early intervention will be very effective.
Treatment of childhood stuttering focuses on two aspects:
- Try to reduce disfluencies during speech: training techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing, articulation control, and lengthening the vowels when pronouncing, will help you control speech.
- Control the appearance of anxiety behaviors. If the child is very afraid of stuttering, it will be necessary to work with him to control that fear, in addition to training the techniques previously described.
Parents can do activities with the child such as fast and slow storytelling exercises, so that the child learns the differences between fast and slow speaking. Once the child already knows the story, exercises can be done to introduce the turn of words, the mother begins a sentence and stops and asks the child to finish it.
1. The first thing parents have to do is not to negatively value the child's way of speaking.
2. Always listen to the child and do not interrupt him.
3. Do not speak for him, the child has to "face the problem" and has to learn to cope; by overprotecting him and speaking for him, we will aggravate the situation.
4. Always give back to the child a feedback of slow speech or speaking slowly, calmly.
5. It is important to generalize these guidelines in all moments of relationship with the child.
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