MEMPHIS, Tenn. – For many people, ringing in the New Year brings hope and joyful anticipation. But for those who struggle with stuttering, the old fears of speaking and being teased are the same.

bummed boy with head against brick wall / bully“I was picked on so much about my stuttering,” recalls 16-year-old Peter, “that I wouldn’t even go to lunch because I didn’t want to sit at a table by myself.”

“I don’t raise my hand in class because I’m worried about what others might think,” says 14-year-old Juan.

A typical school day can be fraught with painfully embarrassing situations for school-age children who stutter.

Parents who notice their child beginning to stutter should seek help right away.

“In the past, experts incorrectly believed that giving attention to a child’s stuttering would exacerbate the situation,” said speech-language pathologist Lisa Scott of Florida State University. “We now know that children who stutter will have significantly less disfluent speech and a higher recovery rate if they are treated when they are young.”

To help parents gain a better understanding of stuttering, the Stuttering Foundation offers a free streaming video in English and Spanish of Stuttering and Your Child: Help for Parents at www.StutteringHelp.org. The foundation also offers the following: 7 Tips for Parents.

Tips for parents of children who stutter

  1. Speak with your child in an unhurried way, pausing frequently. Wait a few seconds after your child finishes speaking before you begin to speak. Your own slow, relaxed speech will be far more effective than any criticism or advice such as “slow down” or “try it again slowly.”
  2. Reduce the number of questions you ask your child. Instead of asking questions, simply comment on what your child has said.
  3. Use your facial expressions and other body language to convey to your child that you are listening to the content of her message and not to how she’s talking.
  4. Set aside a few minutes at a regular time each day when you can give your undivided attention to your child. This quiet, calm time can be a confidence-builder for younger children.
  5. Help all members of the family learn to take turns talking and listening. Children, especially those who stutter, find it much easier to talk when there are few interruptions.
  6. Observe the way you interact with your child. Try to increase those times that give your child the message that you are listening to her and she has plenty of time to talk.
  7. Above all, convey that you accept your child as he is. The most powerful force will be your support of him, whether he stutters or not.

“Any time parents are concerned about a child’s fluency,” notes Jane Fraser, president of the Stuttering Foundation, “they should educate themselves about the disorder and the many ways they can work to prevent stuttering from becoming a chronic problem. Early treatment for children who stutter is key.”

For a free copy of the newly-updated brochure, If You Think Your Child Is Stuttering, parents, teachers and others can call the foundation’s toll-free helpline at 800-992-9392 or visit www.StutteringHelp.org. The site also offers a worldwide referral list of specialists in stuttering.