The sudden stutterer



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About a month ago, I went away for a week, sans husband and child. When I returned from my trip, I was greeted at the airport by my little family and noticed something immediately. In the seven days I had been gone, my two-and-a-half year old had developed quite a stutter.

Eleanor had stuttered in the past, but usually when she was really excited and couldn’t get her words out fast enough. This was different. She would repeat the first word of every sentence several times. I was shocked. This kid’s vocabulary is amazing and she has been speaking in full sentences for months now. A speech problem was a little mind-blowing.

Over the next few weeks we paid close attention to her speech habits and things seemed to be getting worse. Rather than just repeating the first word of her sentences, she began repeating the first sounds of ALL the words of a sentence.

I hit the Internet, researched stuttering and spoke to every friend, family member and stranger about their experiences with stuttering. Most of my research led to “just-a-phase” diagnosis. But, to be sure, I scheduled an appointment with Early Words, a speech therapy program for toddlers and preschoolers.

The initial assessment at Early Words was an hour long, involving endless questions about Eleanor’s speech, play and behaviour. Throughout the interview, Eleanor played in the background and the speech-language pathologist was able to observe her and listen to her speech patterns.

The diagnosis? It is probably nothing to worry about. Eleanor didn’t match any of the markers of a true stutterer, which is great. But, that doesn’t mean she isn’t testing our patience (and her own) with her new speech impediment.

One day, we were having a chat on the couch and I asked her to repeat something. She said no, because “I don’t talk really well.” It nearly broke my heart to hear that. We have done our best not to discuss her speech in front of her, but kids pick up on everything! So far, that comment has been a one-off.

Right now, we are monitoring her stuttering by scoring her out of 10 every day. The goal, obviously, is to see improvements over the next few weeks. Early Words has also recommended a workshop for parents of stutterers, which my husband and I will attend next month.

In the meantime, it is all about patience. We listen carefully, without pushing or asking her to slow down.  She isn’t hesitant to speak (trust me, this kid is a chatterbox) which makes me feel better about the situation. Right now, all we can do is wait, watch for improvement and hope for the best.

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