A vigilant parent would do well to monitor a child who experiences persistent stuttering in order to assess the child’s situation. An option that responsible parents should strongly consider is speech therapy for children if the child is above five years of age and still experiences persistent stuttering.
Even though it is not considered a core discipline in any medical practice, speech therapy for children is actually an especially beneficial area of treatment for improving the speech patterns of a stuttering child.
The aim of speech therapy is to treat and cure a stutter. The discipline falls under the broad umbrella of speech pathology. However, speech therapy is not merely aimed at teaching a child to speak properly, but to set right a number of speech defects and correct a child’s pattern of speech. Prior to therapy, a therapist first must identify if a child’s speech defect is due to external causes such as accidents, or whether it is a natural defect.
Whatever the cause, a speech and language therapist must first and foremost determine the defect’s severity. Practically speaking, the severity of the defect directly affects the gravity of treatment rendered, i.e. there is a direct correlation. Treatment is usually moderate for something relatively simple like a stutter, and is more intensive for more severe speech problems.
Although the discipline requires time to master, there are specialists other than pathologists or therapists for speech and language (SLP) who are trained in speech therapy. Even a layperson can administer the relevant therapy as long as there is adequate guidance from an SLP. Therapy can be effected efficiently and smoothly as long as the person abides by the lessons and exercises that are drafted by an SLP for the child in question.
Based on this reasoning, a child’s parents are in a good position to administer speech therapy for children with an SLP’s guidance. However, parents have to be educated on the more commonly identified speech defects before they can determine the appropriate therapy.
There are three main speech defects in children, namely articulation defects, voice/resonance disorders and fluency disorders. Defects of the secondary physical features for speech (such as that of the lips, cheeks, jaw, teeth, tongue) characterize the first, while defects of the vocal cords and similar parts of the anatomy, i.e. primary physical speech features characterize the second. Stuttering is an example of a fluency disorder, which is not due to physical defects of primary or secondary speech features.