Several therapies can help children overcome disorder :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::photo courtesy of Kristi Perrins Ethan and Bryn Perrins.
It was while trick-or-treating that Elgin mom Kristi Perrins first noticed a problem with her 2½-year-old son's speech.
"As the neighbors were opening the doors, I noticed a couple of repetitions. It steadily declined from that point on," she says.
While this was the beginning of a stuttering problem for Perrins' son, a few repetitions do not necessarily mean a child needs speech therapy, experts say. Many children between the ages of 1½ and 5 will repeat syllables or hesitate when talking.
There are warning signs that indicate when the problem is stuttering, says Kristin Chmela, a speech therapist in Hawthorn Woods. The signs include "disfluency"-repeating a particular sound over and over or blocking a word. Seek help if the problem persists for more than a year or if the child is aware of the problem.
Perrins' son showed signs of stuttering for only a couple of months before he started therapy, but the rapid decline of his speech made her seek help. "I did some research and called the Stuttering Foundation. I have a brother who stutters, so that was a red flag," she says.
A child has a much greater chance of stuttering if a family member stutters as well or if the child has other speech problems already, such as substituting one sound for another. Boys are also more likely to stutter than girls, and girls who stutter are more likely than boys to outgrow it.
Stuttering does not have to be permanent. Several techniques can improve a child's speech.
"It's important that you give the child time to speak," says Chmela. "Tell them a couple of times a day, ‘We're not in a hurry.' Young children don't like to feel rushed."
Parents should speak in a slow, relaxed manner themselves and avoid telling a child to slow down. Anything that makes your child feel more relaxed while talking can help.
The nonprofit Stuttering Foundation of America also recommends setting aside some time each day to give full attention to listening to your child. If the child seems frustrated or wants to discuss his or her speech difficulties, address the problem and offer comfort and reassurance.
If the problem persists, seek professional help.
Perrins says therapy has made a huge difference in her son's speech.
"He's been in therapy a year and he's had tremendous progress," she says. "[Parents should know] there are tools to combat the disorder."
For more information, call (800) 992-9392 or visit www.stutteringhelp.org.