Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Strategies for Students Who Struggle with Fluency

     Parents and teachers frequently ask me questions regarding dysfluent speech behavior.  Dysfluency is a general term used to describe stuttering and or stammering behavior.  There are both typical and atypical dysfluent speech patterns. 

     A normal dysfluent pattern occurs when a person hesitates for effect when speaking; such as a dramatic pause, or hesitates when the person is thinking of something to say.   Everyone has some degree of typical dysfluent speech behavior.   Atypical speech patterns occur for a variety of reasons including physical (e.g.: as found in those individuals with neurological difficulties such as Parkinson’s disease), emotional and/or linguistic causes.  These speech patterns can be described as hesitations, repetitions of sounds or whole words, and prolongations of sounds.  Secondary characteristics may or may not accompany dysfluent speech pattern and can include: facial grimace, finger extensions, head nodding, etc. 

    Treatment programs for individuals with atypical dysfluent speech patterns must be tailored to meet the needs of each individual.  Therapy programs are designed based on a variety of factors including:  age, linguistic ability, the physical nature of the dysfluency itself.
  The role parents and teachers play is critical in the student’s progress.   We as listeners must be mindful of our reaction to dysfluent speech patterns. Both adults and children with fluency disorders would agree that the listeners' reactions to their dysfluent speech patterns plays and important role in their treatment.

      Below is a list of Do’s and Don’ts that would be helpful to your student to ensure an increase in fluent speech behavior.

 For Parents and Teachers
Listen closely when the student talks.
Pay attention to what the student says rather than the way it is said.
Use a slow rate in your own speech and pause frequently.
Provide opportunities for the students to talk to you without distractions or competition         of classmates/siblings.
Reduce pressure to communicate.
Limit time pressure.  Give the student ample time to talk.
Observe situations that increase or decrease fluent behavior.  Increase the times when              the student seems more fluent.
Recognize that certain language factors may have an effect on fluency.  Often the more         complex language used the more dysfluent the student’s speech will become.
Know that environmental factors may have a negative effect on fluency: competition             to speak, excitement, time pressure, arguing, new situations, fatigue, unfamiliar                       listeners.

Tell the student to speak differently.  Do not say, “Relax,” “Slow Down”, “Take your             time” or “Think before you talk.”
Don’t call attention to the student’s speech.
Don’t place the student in situations where their speech would be on display.
Don’t look distressed when the student is dysfluent.
Don’t interrupt the student.
Don’t criticize or correct student’s speech
Do not complete their sentences. Be Patient.

         If you have questions regarding fluent speech behavior and whether your child might have a true fluency disorder or just experiencing typically developing speech please contact a speech and language pathologist.  

Linda Costigan
Speech/Language Pathologist

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