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Stuttering in Young Children

Stuttering in Young Children

A couple of months ago one of the blog’s reader’s emailed me with a question about stuttering. I thought this article could help other parents and families with the same questions about stuttering in young children.

Have you noticed lately that your child is having speech problems and starting to stutter? This can be a source of concern for most parents and it’s natural that you want your child to develop well and be the best he can possibly be.

Stuttering is described as repeating or prolonging pronunciation of a word or sentence. You might find your child saying “s s s story” or “g g g give me – uh – give me that”. Let me start by telling you that stuttering appears to be a normal phase that some children go through between the ages of 2 and 5. During this phase your child is going through a big language leap and his thoughts may be “going too fast for his speech” which is why he might have difficulty forming his sentences. He might know what he wants to say, he just has difficulty saying it. The good news is that only about 5% of children have a true stuttering problem. Most children outgrow stuttering and develop normal speech skills.
It’s normal that children might stutter or have difficulty forming words or sentences when they are excited, upset or angry so try to notice if your child only stutters in certain situations of in general. Of course it’s always good to keep an eye out for atypical development especially if you feel there may be other underlying causes for concern.

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are some factors that may increase the risk of stuttering such as:

  • Having family members who stutter as there appears to be a genetic factor associated with stuttering
  • Children who experience developmental delays or who are experiencing other forms of speech problems are more likely to stutter
  • Boys are more likely to stutter than girls
  • Experiencing a stressful environment or high parental expectations can add pressure on the child and worsen stuttering

Most children should outgrow typical stuttering with 3-6 months so If your child’s difficulty in speech appears to be getting worse or lasts longer than a few months it’s important to consult your pediatrician or speech and language pathologist. This kind of prolonged stuttering can have an affect on your child’s self esteem and his interactions with others such as friends or teachers in preschool. Early intervention is important and very effective in helping young children improve speech.

According to Mayo Clinic you should seek help from a specialist if :

  • Stuttering continues more than 6 months
  • Becomes worse or more frequent
  • Is accompanied with tense or tight facial expressions
  • Is accompanied with other facial or body movements
  • Starts affecting your child’s social interactions or school performance
  • Causes your child emotional problems where your child avoids situations or interactions that require him to talk
  • Continues beyond age 5 or if you notice stuttering when your child begins reading aloud in school

Besides monitoring the stuttering to see if it’s part of her typical development or not it’s important to consider how people interact around your child when she does stutter. Stuttering can have an effect on an emotional level as well and your child may shy away from interacting with others or being in situations that require him to speak. The way we respond is important to a child.

There are some things you can do to help your child feel more at ease while speaking

  • Give your child a few minutes each day where he has your full attention in a relaxed environment
  • Try talking a bit slower to her if you or others are usually fast talkers. No need to make him feel self conscience about his way of speaking. He’ll most likely respond in the same manner you speak to him depending on whether it’s fast or slow.
  • Show your child you are interested in what he has to say and that you are listening to encourage him to feel at ease and take his time
  • Don’t’ complete your child’s sentences for him. Try to give him enough time to express himself
  • Take a moment between answering a question and saying a new sentence. This will show your child that there’ s no need to feel rushed. 

 

If your child starts stuttering don’t panic, it may be a normal developmental phase that almost all children experience to some degree. If your child’s stuttering required professional assistance be positive and supportive of your child. Improving his speech skills through therapy sessions is usually quite successful but make sure you also focus on the emotional side of supporting your child through stuttering. Most importantly don’t blame yourself! To our current knowledge stuttering is absolutely not caused by the parents.

I hope this article has been able to give you some useful information on stuttering in young children and help guide you on the right path.

References

Photo from Fall09stuttering

Raising Toddler Twins

Raising Toddler Twins

Having kids is a wonderful experience. It can also be quite exhaustive, especially if you are dealing with twins! Twins usually require much more attention and energy than regular siblings. This is normal since you’re dealing with two children of the same age at the same time. That can be a handful sometimes!  When you have toddler twins it’s normal that you have a lot to take care of. Everything is doubled. Parents are often concerned about how to treat their twins, should they treat them differently, equally, dress them the same or different?

How are twins different than singletons?
As toddlers there’s a lot going on with children’s development. They start developing words and sentences. Start playing with other children and by the end of toddlerhood will be starting preschool. Twins tend to develop slightly different than regular siblings. They may be delayed in their language skills. This can be more prevalent in identical twins than fraternal twins. However, this difference disappears by the time children are 5 years old once they start preschool and kindergarten. Although the explicit reasons as to why this happens haven’t been identified, there is speculation that this may be due to the amount of verbal interaction they get with their parents. Research has shown that mother’s verbal interaction with each twin plays an important role in their language development.

There is usually a more dominant twin from the pair who tends to be the one more advanced socially and verbally. Twins also tend to play together more than other siblings. As a result, they may have less social interaction with other children or adults. This may also account for delayed language acquisition. Toddler twins are even known to develop their own “secret language” among themselves made up of simplified sounds and words. This behavior is quite normal for twins. These language distortions disappear as twins begin to spend more time with other children and grownups as they would in preschool. Toddler twins may also have more conduct problems than singletons which could be caused by a need for attention or frustration caused by their language delay.

What you can do:

  • Try to give individual attention to each child. Research has shown that parents tend to have less one-on-one interaction and less verbal exchanges with each individual twin than other siblings. Make sure to spend enough time with each child to help foster his/her language and social skills. What is important is how much speech interaction each twin receives individually.
  • Remember that each twin is a unique person. While they may have a lot in common, any parent who has twins will tell you how different their personality and interests are. Whether you want them to be alike or different this will predominantly decided by the twins themselves. Make sure you respect their individual differences as well as their similarities.
  • Offer enough social interaction with other children. While twins do tend to play together more than with other children don’t panic on forcing them to interact with other children. Studies have shown that the close relationship twins share does not interfere with their relationships with other children at school. Twins have even been reported to be less selfish and friendlier at school. Make sure you provide your twins with the normal range of social experiences for their age.
  • Spousal and family support. It can be difficult to divide your attention between two children of the same age at the same time. Try to provide each twin with some undivided exclusive attention with each parent or with close family members like a grandparent. Remember that mothers and fathers play important and unique roles in their child’s development. Fathers’ play time is just as important as mothers’ care and attention.

                                                   

Separate or Same Classroom?

 

The daunting question as children start to enter preschool. Should we keep them in the same classroom because they are so close? Or should we separate them so they can be independent? Unfortunately the answer is not clear cut. What we do know is that placing twins in different classes is associated with better form of speech and stopping stuttering. However, like all children each pair of twins are different and within each pair each twin is a unique child. With that in mind, whether to separate or place in the same classroom should be handled on a case-by-case basis depending on the children’s needs and personalities.

Reference
Lytton, H. & Gallagher, L. (2002). Parenting twins and the genetics of parenting. Handbook of Parenting: Children and Parenting. M. H. Bornstein (Eds). London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

This article as features in Arabic on Supermama

Photo from  Michaela Spodniakova

How you say things matters

How you say things matters

One of the points I’ve found parents have trouble dealing with is how to talk to their children while disciplining them. Should they be calm or loud? Should they tell their child or ask?  Through my experience with kids and their parents I’ve found that how you talk to your child can make a world of difference. Positive parenting techniques also encourage certain techniques to help you communicate more effectively with your child. Here are a few tips that can help you communicate positively with your child and as a result help you reduce or eliminate power struggles or conflict and have a relaxing home environment.

1. Get down to your child’s eye level. Your body language is just as important as your verbal language when communicating with your child.

  • What you can do:
    Make sure you are at your child’s eye level when talking by having eye contact or by getting down to your child’s height.  He/she is more likely to listen to what you have to say when you have eye contact then when you are shouting overhead or from the end of the room. Speaking over your child can also make him feel intimidated or scared. However speaking at your child’s eye level lets him know that you take him seriously and that it’s a two way conversation.

2. Be firm and calm. Shouting usually comes from a source of anger which can causes irrational thinking and saying things we’ll later regret. Your child deserves the same respect you expect him to show you and the best way to do that is to model the right behavior. Shouting

  • What you can do:
    If your child is safe and isn’t harming himself or other children you can afford to give yourself a few seconds before reacting. These few seconds can help you calm down and think about how you’re going to react. Keep your tone calm but firm when talking to your child about his misbehavior. You shouldn’t be mean or aggressive but avoid using pet names, this is a serious situation and should be handled accordingly to send your child the right message.

3. Avoid saying “No”. Saying “No” too much will lose it’s effectiveness, after a while your child won’t pay as much attention if you say “No” which will probably lead to you escalating your response and possibly resorting to shouting or more aggressive behavior to emphasize the point

  • What you can do:
    First, keep “No” for few important rules that have to do with safety or important household rules like touching the oven or standing on the table. Second, when you want to tell your child that he can’t do something phrase your message positively. Check point #2.

4. Avoid negative phrases. When you start with a negative statement that just makes your child feel guilty but doesn’t tell him why you’re upset.

  • What you can do:
    Start your sentence positively, let your child know why you’re upset and most importantly redirect to an acceptable activity. Instead of “Stop grabbing my paper!!!” try “I can’t read my paper while you grab it, you can get a story and read it next to me or you can wait till I’m done and we can play together”.

5. State don’t ask. It’s important to respect your child’s individual wants and needs but in certain situation asking your child to behave just sets you up to accepting “No” from your child as an answer!

  • What you can do:
    Children pick up on subtle differences in speech, if you phrase your sentence as a question your child has the right to say No as an answer. I’m not telling you to instruct or force your child but you can try phrasing your sentence as a statement or option. Give your child choices that are fair to her and acceptable for you.  Instead of “How about you stop banging on the table now Sweetie” you can try “Sarah, you’re banging too loud and it’s hurting mommy’s ears. You can stop banging or we can go outside where it’s better to have loud noises ” if going outside isn’t an option then redirect your child to other acceptable behavior you can read more on redirection here. Remember not to overuse this technique so it doesn’t turn into instructing your child about everything.

6. Always show love. Even though you might be furious with your child for whatever he’s done don’t let that interfere or get confused with showing him that you love him. Often when parents shout or ignore children on purpose their child starts feeling guilty and may fear you won’t love him anymore. Which probably results in low self confidence or more misbehavior to get your attention.

  • What you can do:
    Make it a point to let your child know you still care, even when your addressing his misbehavior. Acknowledge his feelings that he was hurt, angry or tired and that’s why he acted out. Separate his misbehavior from him as a person. Using phrases like “stop being naughty” tells him that he’s the bad person not that his behavior is bad. Make sure you are clear that you are talking about his behavior “It’s not OK to hit others”.
    Listen to his side of the story. Don’t automatically go into punishment mode, it’s important to understand why your child misbehaved and for him to explain himself. This helps you avoid similar situations in the future and lets your child know his feelings matter.
    Instead of enforcing consequences help your child reach a conclusion to why his behavior is not OK. How would he feel if someone hit him? What could he have done instead?

Remember that it’s important to acknowledge and respect that your child has her own opinion and interests and work towards a situation where everyone leaves satisfied. The goal is to have a mutually respected relationship between you and your child that fosters her independence and confidence. I hope these tips help you enhance your positive relationship with your child.

Photo from Allparentstalk.com  and blendedfamilytoday.blogspot.com

Using “Time-out” Positively

Using “Time-out” Positively

Using time-out has become a regular disciplinary method that most parents use, but is it really effective? How many times have you put your child in time-out for misbehaving only to have him do the same thing you told him not to after he’s done with time-out? Who hasn’t struggled with making a toddler stay in time-out? You keep on putting him back but he keeps leaving the time-out space and pretty soon it’s turned into a game for him and frustration for you.

Why time-out doesn’t work

There’s actually a very good reason why time-out doesn’t work. Young children under 5 find it extremely difficult to control and regulate their feeling. So when they are asked to go to time-out and clam down they simply can’t do it. Whatever feeling your child is going through at that moment just seems too much to handle for him. He needs you to help him, he simply can’t do it alone. Another reason is that children need immediate consequences to help them learn. Prolonging punishment isn’t really going to help you emphasize your point. When a child is asked to go in his room and “think about what he’s done”  that doesn’t give him any idea as to what he did wrong or what he could have done instead. Young children are still learning and exploring, everything is new to them. What might come naturally to you may be a skill your child needs to be introduced to. This doesn’t mean you should be permissive with your child and just let him do whatever he wants. Time-out can also be an effective tool when used positively.

What you can do

  • Remove your child from the situation to a calm spot if he is misbehaving or is having a meltdown
  • Remind your child of house rules like “no-hitting” depending on the situation
  • Use time-out as a calming space and not punishment. Don’t leave your child alone in time-out and don’t associate it with something negative. Instead provide your child with support and comfort to help him recognize his feelings, listen to why he misbehaved, discuss with him why his behavior was inappropriate and explain the kind of behavior you expect from him.
  • With repetition time-out can become a place for your child to regulate his feelings. Instead of threatening to send him to time-out you can enable him to use time-out to calm himself. If you start seeing signs that your child is feeling frustrated and agitated you can ask him if he needs some time-out. As your child grows older and learns to regulate his emotions on his own he can use time-out by himself.
  • Don’t overuse it. Like anything else don’t resort to time-out every time your child misbehaves. Find out why your child is misbehaving or feeling frustrated and choose an appropriate solution for that specific situation.
  • Distinguish between your child’s behavior and your child. Avoid using words like “stop being naughty”. Labeling your child tells him what to think of himself not his behavior. Instead explain what behavior was wrong “stop jumping on the sofa”. You want to send a message about your child’s behavior not himself to help him find an alternative and maintain his self confidence.

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Photo from Sheknows.com

Dealing with Bedtime Struggles

Dealing with Bedtime Struggles

Bedtime struggles are a common problem with toddlers and preschoolers. It can be exhausting and frustrating when your child refuses to go to bed at the end of a long day. The good news is that there is usually a solution. The key is figuring out what the problem is and why your child is refusing to go to bed. Even though it might be a daily struggle that most children do, there can be a different reason on different nights with different children.
Here are some common reasons for bedtime struggles and why your child may not be going to bed, what you can do and finally general guidelines to peaceful bedtime.

1.Rushed or Chaotic Bedtime, if bedtime is rushed or loud it can be hard for your child to go from playing to falling asleep in a few minutes. Other distractions like the TV being on or older siblings playing in another room are a constant reminder to your child that others are still up and “playing”. Naturally, he still wants to be a part of that and will refuse to go to bed or will find it hard to fall asleep.

  • What you can do:
    make sure you give bedtime the time it deserves. It might be tough after a long day but making time before bedtime can save you a lot of time and energy and help you avoid the power struggle at bedtime. Make sure bedtime is a quiet time, give your child some notice that bedtime is near, try to establish a bedtime routine to prepare your child for bed. Turn off the TV and put away all toys in the last hour before bedtime. Dim the lights and try to have the family do quiet activities like reading. Make sure that bedtime is as boring as possible.

2. Your Child doesn’t want to Go or Stay in Bed, If your child doesn’t want to go to bed he may be distracted by other sounds in the house or just not exhausted enough to go to bed.

  • What you can do:
    Like the example above, make sure bedtime is a quiet time. If your child keeps on bouncing in and out of bed and is full of energy, he might not be getting enough activity during the day to tire him out. Make sure he gets enough physical activity during the day, scale back daytime naps or wake him up a bit earlier in the morning. Remember that quiet time is important. If your child is very active before bedtime make sure to give him some extra time to wind down. Don’t turn bedtime into a power struggle, if your child keeps getting out of bed simply put him back into bed, wait a few minutes and assure him you will be back to check on him in a few minutes. Check on your child from the doorway every few minutes and tell him what a good job he’s doing falling asleep. After a few times when he feels safe and reassured he’ll start to fall asleep.

3.Your child won’t go to sleep alone, Your child may also find it difficult to sleep alone and may need some extra comfort to go to bed. He might not want to fall asleep on his own because he feels insecure. At this age children have a very active imagination and shadows and sounds can be scary.

  • What you can do:
    Encourage your child to fall asleep alone.  You can help him  feel secure by giving him a favorite comfort object like a stuffed animal to sleep with. You can leave a night light on or keep the bedroom door open. If your child is afraid of “monsters under the bed” take these fear seriously and  play along by “kicking the monsters out” of the room. This can sometimes be more effective than saying that there are no such things as monsters. Remember to start with a calming bedtime routine. You can also promise your child to check in on him every few minutes like the example above.

4. Your Child wakes up during the night,most children wake up during the night and fall back asleep. If your child is having difficult falling back asleep during the night it might be because he is too stressed by the time his cries reach you. Usually by the time a child’s cries reach the parent he’s already gone through a series of anxious reactions. The initial part of waking up and being alone, then waiting for the parent’s attention, then probably some mild stress and crying which would be easier to comfort then finally full stressful cries that reach the parent. By this time can make it more difficult for him to calm down quickly.

  • What you can do: If you want you can give your child access to get out of bed and come to you during the night. If your child wakes up during the night and needs reassurance he can simply come over to your room and will usually fall asleep without too much fuss. If you can’t do that then try to install a baby monitor so you can hear his initial cries, give him a couple of minutes to settle himself back to sleep. If you feel he is reaching that stressful point then try to go comfort him. You can first try by just being at the doorway so your child doesn’t try to get out of bed and offer reassurance that you are there and can hear him. If that isn’t comforting enough then try standing by your child’s bed, offer reassurance and remind him softly that it’s time for bed. It will take a few times till your child develops a pattern of  secure experiences and feels OK when he wakes up alone.

Suggested Bedtime Routine

  1. Try to have a similar routine every night. Not only is the routine important but it’s important to stick to the time schedule so that your child’s biological clock gets used to it. Remember that your child is still growing so his sleep routines and patterns will need adjusting. He may need to wake up earlier or need to stop napping to sleep through the night.
  2. Give your child a heads up that bedtime is after your last evening activity; dinner, playtime, etc.
  3. Make sure the TV is off and the house is quiet within the hour before bedtime. Most importantly make sure you are calm and not rushed. Children can pick up easily on adults’ emotions.
  4. You can give a warm bath or read a story in bed before bedtime to calm down your child. Each child is different, you need to figure out which activity calms your child best.
  5. Spend a few minutes next to your child just lying there. Make sure bedtime is as boring as possible. Put away any toys or distractions from the bed. You can try humming some songs or softly speaking to your child about his day. This can help him relax and fall asleep.
  6. Make sure your child has his favorite security toy next to him in case he wakes up or leave the door open. Use which ever method you choose that works best to help him fall back asleep. If you don’t mind letting him come to your bed at night then make sure he can easily get out of his own bed and walk to your room if he wakes up.
  7. Remember be consistent and patient. If you give in that sends a message to your child that if he whines or cries long enough then he gets his way. It can be hard and exhausting, try to approach each day with a new perspective, there could be a different reason why he’s having trouble going to bed. Figuring out the problem can help you save time and energy to avoid a power struggle and bedtime tears.

Suggested Bedtime Reading

Goodnight Moon

Goodnight moon is a classic and the perfect book for bedtime. Say goodnight to everything in little rabbit’s room; the mittens, the mouse, the  porridge and the moon. You can include your own goodnights to things in your child’s own room or people who were with you in your day.

Photo from isayx3

Article reference from Mayo Clinic

5 Reasons Children Misbehave and What You Can Do

5 Reasons Children Misbehave and What You Can Do

Every parent reaches their wits end when dealing with children’s misbehavior. Just remember that your child isn’t “out to get you”, there are often very explainable and preventable reasons for misbehavior.
The most common reasons for misbehavior are:

1. Your child’s basic needs aren’t being met, he is tired, cranky or hungry which makes all his emotions magnified and little problems difficult to handle.

  • What you can do: make sure your child is fed and rested before venturing out. Make sure you don’t skip a meal or your child’s nap time. It can take some compromise on your part as a parent to make sure you’re child finds a place to take his nap while you’re out but it will make both of you happy in the long term.

2. Seeking attention, your child may be trying to get your attention and learned that getting attention through misbehavior is easier and more effective.

  • What you can do:  Try to ignore unwanted attention seeking behavior as long as your child isn’t harming himself or others. Make sure you praise positive behavior so your child realizes there is an alternative way to get your attention. With repetition your child will learn he can do positive things instead of misbehaving to get your attention.

3. Displaying inadequacy,children who feel inadequate will refuse to try new things and give up easily.

  • What you can do: Offer your child encouragement when approaching a task. Use encouraging words and phrases like “you can do it!”. Try to offer your child toys or activities that are within your child’s developmental abilities with a bit of challenge to help in learn but not cause frustration. Remember to  give him the space and  independence to do it on his own but be close by in case he asks for help.

4. Controlling, children who want to be in control refuse to follow direct requests, lash out when reprimanded and refuse to do what their parents request.

  • What you can do: Don’t get yourself into a power struggle, simply state expectations and consequences in advance. If your child does not follow through (cleaning up) then follow with the consequence (can’t go out to play). With repetition and time your child will learn to avoid consequences with minimal conflict. As a parent make sure you do not insist on everything as well. It’s best to keep firm rules down to a few that mainly have to do with safety like crossing the street or not touching the oven. This gives you room to compromise and revisit other rules as your child grows and has different developmental needs and capabilities.

5. Revenge seeking behavior is when your child shows mean behavior like saying “i don’t love you” or breaking another child’s toy. This behavior reflects that your child feels he has no value or little worth.

  • What you can do: There is usually an underlying reason why children lash out with hurtful words and phrases. Sometimes a simple incident like leaving a birthday before seeing the clown can seem like the end of the world for your child with such intense emotions. The best way to handle this is to avoid consequences that might be viewed as retaliation, instead help him make amends like fixing the friend’s toy or make sure to explain why you had to leave the birthday at that time and acknowledge your child’s feelings. Most importantly remind your child that you LOVE him even when he is misbehaving. This can be hard but will help him stop acting out for revenge.

Photo from Mariam El Mofty