How to help a child to speak fluently

If your child gets stuck trying to get words out, these suggestions may help:

  • Take time every day to talk to the child. Look at books together or play together. Talk about what you are doing. Do not put pressure on the child to talk, but make comments followed by pauses to give him the opportunity to talk.
  • Pay attention to what the child says and not to the way he says it.
  • Maintain eye contact – when you look at the child when he speaks, you show that you are interested in what he says and that you like to talk to him.
  • Avoid interrupting when he talks.
  • To help him to talk slowly and calmly, talk slowly and calmly yourself.
  • Use simple language – if the child tries to imitate a complicated language model, he may have difficulty imitating it fluently.
  • Reduce time constraints. Overly busy schedules put pressure on the child to talk quickly.
  • When the child is less fluent, talk less. If necessary, you can play a non-verbal game. When the child is more fluent, do activities that involve more talking.
  • Replace direct questions with comments. For example, instead of asking “What would you like for breakfast”, you can say “For breakfast, you can have cereal or toast.”
  • Model information or answers that you would like the child to give you. Avoid asking him to speak on demand.
  • When you correct the child’s errors, repeat what the child said, but correctly. Do not ask the child to repeat the correct production.

Please do not:

  • Finish the child’s sentences. If you supply the words, you increase the child’s feeling that he is not able to talk for himself.
  • Make suggestions such as: Slow down, breathe, relax. The child needs to think about what he is saying and not about how he is saying it.
  • Pretend to understand what a child has said.
  • Use the words « stutterer ». It is more helpful to use words to describe the difficulty the child is having: “It was hard to get that word out,” than to label the child.
  • Ask the child to express himself in public. Speaking under pressure is particularly difficult for many children.
  • Ask a child to answer unexpected questions, to explain a disagreeable event or to explain why he did something wrong.
  • Ask a child to express himself when he is very emotional, especially when he is crying.
  • Criticize the child for lack of fluency or rewarding him for fluency.
  • Discuss the problem in front of the child.

I hope this article was helpful! If you have concerns about your child’s speech or language, please contact a Speech-Language Pathologist. If you live in or near Winnipeg, we at SpeechWorks Inc. would be happy to help.

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