Normal nonfluency (childhood stuttering)

SH Pinky Devi
Many children, at about 2-4 years of ages pass through the developmental stages of language learning, they will be more disfluent at certain times than others. These developmental periods ofdisfluency are normal occurrence. Normally communicating children hit apeak of disfluency usually at these ages. These normal disfluencies are known as normal nonfluency and they are characterized by the repetition of whole words and phrases with occasional interjections of‘uhs’, ‘ers’, and ‘ahs’ ( Perkins 1971, Yairi& Lewis 1984). This period of disfluency is a transitional stage and most of the children leave behind as they master oral communication. There is no need for therapeutic intervention for these children. But if the children go beyond simple repetitions and interjections to forced prolongations of sounds with signs of physical struggle in producing speech then they may be ‘incipient stutterers’ ( Ryan 1974) in such case consultation with Speech- Language Pathologist is very important.
During Normal Nonfluency:
Children puts an extra words or sounds in the sentence( I want to eat um um apple)
Changing the word in a sentence .(my pencil…my book is lost)
Saying the same sound or syllable more than once in a word
(d-d-d-dad or mom-mom-mom-mommy)
Saying the same word more than once in a sentence
(give-give-give me car)
During these period children are often relaxed, with no signs of struggle or tension
Nonfluent speech can vary by type and amount each day, and can increase when a child is:
Tired, excited, unsure or when competing with others for a chance to speak.
Rushing to talk, or is told to speak “on command” in front of others.
If the parents are concerned about their child’sNormal Nonfluent Speech, the following may help:
1. Pay attention to your child when he/she talks to you.  Let him know you’re listening.  If you cannot listen right then, explain that and tell him/her when you can listen…and then Do it.
2. Don’t demand speech from him/her if he’s crying, injured, or obviously upset.  These times they tend to produce disrupt speech.
3. Don’t force him/her to recite stories, rhymes, ABC’s in front of your relatives or friends.
4. Don’t talk fast, try to keep your own speech slow and deliberate by pausing occasionally at natural places.
5. Don’t raise your voice
6. Try not to use complex language that is beyond his/her development.
7. Don’t interrupt him/her when he/she is talking, or complete his/her sentences out loud for him.
8. Don’t correct his/her speech. Stop giving suggestions about how to talk in a better way.  Comments like:  “slow down”, “think about what you are going to say”, “stop and take a deep breath”, “count to ten”, or “start over” should be eliminated completely.
9. Build up his/her strengths.  Encourage him/her to play games and do things that he/she does well.
10. Don’t make him/her compete with other kids.
11. Don’t show concern or distress about his/her speech
12. Remember that 85% of all children who are 2 to 4 years of age show hesitations and repetitions at times when talking.
13. Tell others not to imitate or joke about his/hernonfluent speech.  This includes brothers, sisters, grandparents, friends, relatives and babysitters.
14. NEVER discuss his/hernonfluency when he/she can overhear you.
15. If he/she becomes startled by words he/she has said nonfluently, you should calmly reuse the words in a natural, normal way. If he/she says, “tomy ate my b-b-b-biscuit”, you might say, “Did he ate your biscuit?  Where is it? Did he eat all the biscuit? Let’s go and buy new one for you.”  Be sure to listen more to what he says rather than how he says it.   Maintain normal eye contact and wait patiently with interest until he/she finishes.
16. If he/she is frustrated and complains that he/she can’t say the word correctly, then reassure him/her by explaining that some words give you trouble too.   Convince him that even adults have trouble talking sometimes.

The writer is a lecturer in audiology, RIMS

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