A lot goes into helping a child shed their speech disfluencies. However, of all the work that needs to be done to make it happen, support is the consistent thread. To get rid of a stutter or other speech disorder, kids need to be surrounded by people who are willing to be patient and helpful towards them.
Most educators and parents are happy to do what they can for the speech-disfluent children in their lie. However, good intentions will only get you so far. To make a significant impact, you also need to understand what factors contribute to a supportive and productive educational environment for children with disordered speech.
In this article, we provide a succinct but effective overview of how you can create a supportive environment for children with speech disfluencies.
Typical Versus Atypical Disfluencies: How Can You Tell the Difference?
It’s important to understand that developmentally healthy children do experience things that can be qualified as typical speech disfluencies. These laps in fluent speech usually correlate with some sort of cognitive development milestone.
For example, when a 2-3-year-old child begins to learn more words and expand their use of language, they may experience brief stuttering spells. These are typically harmless episodes, brought on by the fact that they are thinking a little faster than they know how to speak.
These incidents may be deeply frustrating for the child but are usually not harmful from a developmental standpoint. But while some speech disfluency is common, there are signs that your child is experiencing something that falls outside of the normal range of experience. These signs include:
- Speech avoidance: Does your child avoid speaking altogether, or rely heavily on physical forms of communication to express their thoughts? These are often indications that a more serious issue with speech is taking place.
- Difficulty with specific sounds: If the child is experiencing consistent difficulty with specific sounds it is usually an indication that there is an ongoing problem with speech disfluency. Generally, issues that are not concerning are not specific to certain sounds.
- Broken words: Speech disorders are also often characterized by broken words. Long pauses within the middle of certain words as the child struggles to figure out how to make the necessary sound to continue.
- Difficulty beginning sentences: A consistent inability to begin sentences suggests both speech-related anxiety and a general difficulty with common communication sounds that extend beyond what is typical.
While there are exceptions, it’s also just usually true that when a parent or teacher is worried that there is speech disfluency taking place, they are usually right. If the child seems to be struggling with language more than their peers, the next step should be to have them meet with a speech professional.
What Comes Next
So, you’ve identified that a child might be having difficulties with their speech. What comes next? Below, we list out a series of steps that will help you deal with the problem effectively.
Step 1: Connect the Child with a Speech Professional
Public schools are legally required to provide whatever learning assistance the child requires. Hopefully, there should be no issue getting a child struggling with their speech skills to see a speech therapist. However, there are situations where difficulties may arise.
Small school districts in remote areas may have a hard time finding someone. Private schools are also subject to slightly different rules for what resources they are required to provide students.
In all cases, parent and teacher advocacy is an important element in ensuring that the student gets what they need.
Step 2: Establish a Productive Chain of Communication
For speech issues to be tackled effectively it will take a coordinated effort between the adults in the child’s life. When a child is diagnosed with any kind of disability that impacts their learning ability, they are given an IEP— an individualized education program.
The IEP basically serves as a roadmap for how the child will be able to achieve good educational outcomes. It lists out goals for the child’s learning and also dictates accommodations the child should receive in the classroom.
Children with any form of disability benefit enormously from parental involvement. Once the child has been diagnosed with a speech disorder, it is important that the educators, the parents, and the speech professionals maintain effective lines of communication.
Should an IEP be established, it will create a natural avenue of communication in the form of meetings that parents are entitled to call when they have concerns. Even if the child is not deemed to require an IEP they will still benefit from regular communication between all parties involved in their education.
Step 3: Be Patient
Finally, remember that patience is key. It is hard providing a person with speech difficulties the educational or parental support that they need. You want the best for them and know that their struggles with speech will be a significant roadblock to their long-term success.
Fortunately, speech difficulties are usually treatable. What might feel like an unbridgeable obstacle now will most likely one day be a thing of the past. However, you do need to make sure that the child feels comfortable in their learning and language development.
Patience is key. If you can help to make the speech therapy process as stress-free as possible, it will go a long way towards expediting their success. Keep in mind that hesitancy toward speaking can slow learning considerably.
The kinder and more allowing you are, the more comfortable the child will ultimately feel practicing their language skills. Speech development requires time and effort but if you provide the child with the right environment, they will begin learning eventually.
Guest Author Bio
With a Bachelor’s in Health Science along with an MBA, Sarah Daren has a wealth of knowledge within both the health and business sectors. Her expertise in scaling and identifying ways tech can improve the lives of others has led Sarah to be a consultant for a number of startup businesses, most prominently in the wellness industry, wearable technology and health education. She implements her health knowledge into every aspect of her life with a focus on making America a healthier and safer place for future generations to come.