October 22 is Stuttering Awareness Day

Speech-Language Pathologists at The Montreal Children’s Hospital of the MUHC  say early intervention for stuttering is key

October 22 is National Stuttering Awareness Day.  This year speech-language pathologists at The Montreal Children’s Hospital (MCH) of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) want people to know that the earlier a child undergoes therapy for stuttering, the better the results in the long term. One significant consequence of early intervention: a dose of self-confidence that will last a lifetime.

“I was diagnosed at the age of five with stuttering,” says Leetal Cuperman, who today is a Speech-Language Pathologist at the MCH. “I did therapy on and off as a child, but nothing significant enough to improve my speech. Up until the age of 20—when I finally took an intensive course to help manage my stuttering—I suffered from low self-confidence because of the way I spoke. It definitely impeded my life. For one, I always wanted to be in a school play, but my stuttering held me back.”

“Treat the stuttering right away to improve a child’s sense of self,” says Ms. Cuperman.

Stuttering is when fluency of speech is impaired. Sometimes it involves a repetition of words (ex. I am, I am, I am cold), or sounds being prolonged (ex. mmmmmmom). If one lives with stuttering for a long time without therapy other behaviours can also develop, such as not making eye contact when speaking with someone, hitting of a leg to get a word out, or avoiding using words that the person knows will make him or her stutter. When she stutters, Ms. Cuperman finds it difficult to make eye contact and she admits to sometimes avoiding certain words.

Stuttering often emerges between the ages of two and five, usually at the same time language develops. It is genetic in 60 per cent of cases. And the ratio of boys to girls who stutter is 4:1. Physically, stuttering is a problem in coordinating breathing (respiration) with turning on the voice (phonation) and pronouncing sounds (articulation). It is not caused by personality factors such as shyness or nervousness or “thinking too fast.”

Some strategies and tips for parents whose children stutter include:
  • be a good listener (get down to your child’s level, make eye contact, let your child finish sentences and avoid supplying words your child is missing, explain to your child if you are in a rush, listen to what he says, not how he says it, avoid saying things like: take your time or think about what you are going to say before speaking)
  • when talking to your child use a slow model of speech; modeling speech; if you take your time, he or she will
  • it’s normal to have good and bad days. If your child is having a good day, give your child lots of opportunity to talk (ex. With puppet games, describing pictures). If he/she is having a bad day, do more non-verbal activities to take the pressure off.
  • If your child is younger than 5, it is expected that he/she will make mistakes. Avoid having him/her repeat the message if you understood it. Simply repeat the message back in the correct form.
  • If you have more than one child, establish talking rules to be respected by all members of the family.
  • If your child is concerned about his/her speech, reassure him/her that there are many times that he/she speaks well and that we all have hesitations in our speech.
To speak with Ms. Cupperman about stuttering please call:

Lisa Dutton
Manager, Public Relations and Communications MCH
514 412-4307