What do Winston Churchill and James Earl Jones have in common — besides a deep voice and a robust stature? They were both stutterers. As were King George VI, actor Bruce Willis, and golfer-turned-broadcaster Ken Venturi.
Stuttering that lasts for six or more months affects about 5 percent of children, and is thought to happen because of a combination of genetics, neurophysiology, developmental problems, and family environment.
Fortunately, stuttering fades for about 50 percent of 4- and 5-year-olds. But that doesn't mean you should just think of it as a passing phase.
Research shows that early intervention — as young as age 3 — is the best route, even if your child eventually may overcome the disability.
That's because helping reprogram the brain's speech patterns as soon as possible can prevent stuttering from becoming an emotional and social handicap — or a permanent condition.
The frustration that young kids feel when they can't express themselves is great enough without any impediments; add stuttering, and it can amplify those feelings. Furthermore, if a child stutters at age 5, there's a 50-50 chance it will persist into adulthood.
So if your child stutters, don't worry, but do talk with a speech therapist.
And consider adopting some of the most effective therapeutic techniques: Reduce competing sounds from TV, music, and other people; speak more slowly when talking with your child; allow for pauses between talking and taking turns talking; let your child finish a thought no matter how long it takes; and teach your child relaxed breathing techniques.
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