- Education – I talked to my husband and my older son about what stuttering was. I told them about spontaneous recovery, but that there were other things we could do to make it a better, more-communication friendly environment.
- No interruptions – I told my husband and my older son not to interrupt D when he spoke. I wanted to be sure that if D had a moment of stuttering, he was not interrupted or rushed during the stutter.
- Take turns – I also advised everyone about making sure we did a better job taking turns as a family. So D could have his turn to speak and then another person would get their turn. This continues to be a work in progress, because I have talkative, opinionated spouse. My kids hear a lot of passionate dialogue at home and they sometimes get very excited about adding an opinion.
- Modeling taking my time – Lastly I’m modeled easy onsets and slow connected speech for D as much as I could. I wanted him to hear that I didn’t rush myself when I talked; I took my time. My hope was that he could hear that and mimic me.
- No teasing – I told everyone in the family not to make fun of D’s stuttering. There was a zero tolerance policy.
We waited it out and employed the techniques above. In my work I’ve seen kids recover from stuttering in the early childhood years. Also most speech pathologists won’t treat a child who stutters if the child has only been stuttering for six months or less.
Six months came and went and D was still stuttering. The severity fluctuated. Sometimes it would be very severe with lots of repetitions and other times there would be a pause for a day or so. He never produced blocks and there was no tension in his stuttering, just easy repetitions. I would wonder if he were recovering when the stuttering would disappear for a day, but then the stuttering would come back.
One variable that I believe impacted D was that my older son has a high vocabulary for his age. So in our home D has a model in his brother that is far beyond his abilities to even always understand what his older brother says.
We kept doing those techniques I mentioned above and delayed an evaluation or possible therapy. I kept being hopeful that my son would spontaneously recover from stuttering.
D turned four in the fall of 2016 and he still was stuttering. Around that time my dad, D’s grandpa, passed away suddenly. I was worried about D’s stuttering, but we had a lot going on and it fell to the background as we all managed our grief that fall and winter.
My husband was not worried and neither were any of my family members. But being the speech pathologist, I knew more than they did. Note: if my son were a patient of mine, I would have advised myself to go seek a speech therapy evaluation for him. A year had passed and it was time for a professional opinion. I considered it as well, but I really didn’t think we had the money for him to get an evaluation and attend speech therapy sessions. I was definitely a “bad” speech pathologist/mom, but my judgement was clouded because it was my own child. Additionally, I was depressed over the loss of my father and I was just getting through each day and each week.
Finally, when my son turned 4 1/2 and it been been 18 months since the onset of stuttering, I knew that he needed therapy. The summer was less than two months away and I decided that if he was still stuttering that time I would get him evaluated and seek treatment from speech-language pathologist no matter the cost. I felt like we had tried 18 months of “light” interventions and it had yielded no visible results. There had been no change to my son’s word and phrase repetitions: they did not get worse, but they also did not go away.
In the months before the summer came, I decided it was at this time that I more aggressively tackle the stuttering. In addition to what we were already doing (above), here is what I did next:
- Smooth and bumpy speech – I sat my son down and told him about “bumpy” speech and “smooth” speech. This is a way of framing stuttering apart from “good or bad speech,” but a more neutral “smooth vs bumpy.” I was instructing, in a way a child can comprehend, what interruptions of your speech feel like to increase awareness. Up until this point, D had no idea what he was doing; he was completely unaware. D didn’t know what I was talking about, but he sat happily to listen to me.
- Repetition – I also had D repeat parts of the words or phrases that he would say when he stuttered. So if he said, “I I I want a dog,” I would let him finish (you always let people who stutter finish what they say), I would say it back to him (“Oh, you want a dog? Can you say ‘I want a dog’ again?”), and he would repeat it.