I have been working with little William since he was 16 months old and not saying words yet. He has made steady progress and seems to be taking off with his language development lately. He just turned 3 years old, is using 3-4 word sentences and guess what?
Much to Mom’s surprise he has started to repeat a word at the beginning of a sentence as he tries to say something. “I I I I want pirate.” It seems that he is having trouble getting out what he wants to say. “This is something new,” Mom says, “What does it mean?”
Occasional easy repetitions of whole words or phrases at this age can be typical and is referred to as “normal dysfluency,” not stuttering, by a speech-language pathologist. Often it occurs when a child is experiencing a surge in his language development. Tips for responding:• Don’t draw attention. In the same way that you wouldn’t correct your child’s pronunciation, don’t draw attention to these repetitions. Just listen attentively and be affirming.
• Be patient. Give him your full attention with ample time to express himself. He’ll get the idea that he doesn’t have to hurry and you are interested in what he is saying.
• Slow down yourself. Answer him in a slow, relaxed rate of speech yourself, creating a calm environment in which to share. I often tell parents to use their “Mr. Rogers” voice. By your modeling a slower pace, you can affect his rate of speech.
• Don’t finish up. It’s easy for a parent to want to finish his child’s sentence but it is important to let him complete his thought. Interrupting is disruptive and will not promote fluency.
• Shorten up. Respond to your child with some shorter, less complex sentences, pausing between phrases. “Let’s get your shovel and truck. We’re going to the park today.”
If your child begins to show signs of dysfluent speech that are different from the typical examples given, such as repeating parts of words, “m-m-m-my car” or prolonging a sound in a word such as “mmmmmy car” and this persists, you should seek an evaluation from a speech-language pathologist. To find a professional in your area refer to The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) website at www.asha.org.