Back-to-school Tips for Families of Kids Who Stutter

It’s officially back-to-school season! How is it already mid-August?! 

As kids return to school, we parents and caregivers find ourselves juggling endless challenges including health and safety concerns, scheduling, traffic, preparing our kids mentally and physically to adjust to a new schedule, new teachers, new friends and may be even a whole new school! As family members of a child who stutters you may face the additional worry of how your child’s speech will be affected as they adjust to these transitions. And ultimately, how their self-esteem will be affected. 

As a speech-language pathologist who works primarily with school-aged children who stutter, I wanted to share some tips that I hope will help:

– Your may hear more stuttering in your child’s speech as they adjust to the schedule and lifestyle changes that come up during this time. Prepare yourself by reminding yourself that this is typical and expected. It does not mean their stuttering is “getting worse”. All it means is that their minds and bodies are focused on coping with all the new things things happening and not so focused on regulating their speech. 

– While it may seem like a good idea to practice speech strategies MORE during this time, I would advise focusing only on making this transition as smooth as possible for your family. If you have additional time, practice breathing exercises and positive affirmations together as a family. 

– Did you know that positive affirmations and positive self-talk can boost a child’s self-esteem? My favorite positive affirmations for kids who stutter are: “It is okay to stutter”. “I will speak freely”. “I will take as long as I need to get my words out”. “I can do this”.

– Create a list of “calming activities” they can do when they feel stressed. Help them label their feelings and brainstorm solutions from this list, e.g., “I feel stressed about school starting soon. When I feel stressed, I can ride my bike in the yard/play with my dog/listen to music/color in my coloring book.

– Let your child’s classroom teacher and extracurricular coaches know they stutter. Having your child’s teachers and coaches know that they stutter can be helpful. If they have people in their corner in all settings who will help advocate for them, it can help prepare them to ultimately advocate for themselves! Knowing that there is someone who understands their challenges can also help ease their nervousness about speaking in the classroom. 

Here is a great brochure you can hand to your child’s teachers to help them understand stuttering. You can also help your child write a “Dear Teacher” letter (as some of your children have done in speech with me), and/or if they are ready, you can help your child verbally tell their teacher and classmates about stuttering.

I hope you and your child find these tips helpful in easing the transition back to school! Have a wonderful school year!

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