‘I just ordered toast for lunch…but what I really wanted was a cheeseburger, with tomatoes, grilled onions, and medium size French fries, with a large strawberry shake…urrgh! I could not say it. I hate stuttering’.
This post, written by a thirteen year old boy, appeared on Facebook some days ago. Social media can be used by people who stutter either to share experiences or to avoid speaking situations. Children who stutter may experience negative consequences due to stuttering. They might react to the expectations of parents, teachers, peers and others who urge them to speak fluent. Such reaction could be resorting to avoiding speaking situations. It is easier to Facebook then face people. However, it is much better to communicate with people and stutter rather than avoiding interacting and just use the social media.
It is important for parents to avoid being the stuttering police and order a child who stutters to ‘slow down’, or ‘take a breath’ or ‘relax, say it again’. If slowing down helped their stuttering don’t you think they would do it? Instead of telling them to slow, for example, parents could slow down their own speech. The best thing a parent can do for a child that stutters is to make sure they have a strong and positive stuttering identity. This includes having an attitude of acceptance and not feeling shame about stuttering. Dreams, passion, determination and talents should determine their child’s future and not their stuttering.
Dr. Joseph Agius is a registered speech language pathologist with special interest in fluency disorders and humour research. He is visiting senior lecturer at the University of Malta and staff member of the European Clinical Specialization in Fluency Disorders (ECSF).