The last thing you want to do is panic if your preschooler shows signs of stuttering. A certain amount nonfluency and disruption in speech is not a cause for concern -- particularly between the ages of 2 1/2 and 4, according to the Center for Stuttering Therapy. However, if you notice that your child's speech doesn't improve over time -- and your little one begins to show frustration when he speaks -- you should consult a professional. There are exercises that you can do at home in conjunction with therapy by a licensed professional to help you child overcome stuttering.
1. Taking it Slow and Easy
Modeling effective speech for a child is one of the simplest methods to help her improve. Read an age-appropriate book while utilizing slow, clear speech. This is a perfect opportunity to produce language that's consistent because you and your preschooler are both comfortable and relaxed. Pause for a second after saying each word within a sentence. After reading, go back and ask your little guy to describe pictures in the book in the same manner that you read them.
2. Play Your Role
Another strategy to improve fluency in children is rephrasing. For example, if your little one says, "I w-w-w-want to eat pizza," then respond to affirm what was said in a slow manner such as "You want to eat pizza? I want to eat pizza, too." You can also play games to help reinforce easy speech. Draw a maze with squares -- and get some picture cards. Explain to your child that you both can only advance to the next square if you use slow and relaxed speech to identify each picture card you pull. For a busier child, you can draw a hopscotch board on the ground and place objects in the squares. Take turns jumping from one square to another after naming the object in each square.
The last thing a preschooler wants to do is wait -- for anything! However, taking her time when speaking is exactly what she should do to produce sounds and words effectively. Teach your child to do this by pausing in your own speech. When she asks a question, deliberately stop and say "Let me think about that" before proceeding with an answer.
4. Family Approach
Low self-esteem doesn't necessarily cause a child's speech problems, but how others treat a little one with speech problems can certainly affect his self-esteem. Rather than reminding your preschooler to slow down, simply slow down your own speech -- and the conversations in your home. Encourage other family members to speak slowly and clearly. A busy household with several siblings all expressing what they want, think and feel will invariably affect how the stutterer communicates. In an effort to get his voice heard among the others, he may increase the rate of his speech, instead of focusing on clear and relaxed speech. It might also frustrate him even more if everyone is talking all at once -- and he feels like he can't get the attention he needs. Find time during the day to give your preschooler your undivided attention to initiate conversation and talk about his own interests.
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