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LD and ADD/ADHD Expert Advice from Jerome J. Schultz, Ph.D.

Q: What can we do to help our 6-year-old, who has a problem with stuttering?

A: This is not a question about learning disabilities, but since so many people ask about stuttering, I thought it would be appropriate to give some general guidelines here. First of all, there are several theories about why people stutter, but the exact cause of stuttering is not known.

Many children stutter at some point when they are little. The good news is that most children who stutter grow out of it with no intervention. What's the best way to help kids who stutter? Most speech and language professionals say the answer is simple: Do nothing. Or at least, nothing obvious. Filling in words for a child or telling him or her to "slow down" or "relax" can make a child nervous and actually make the problem worse. Parents should continue to monitor the speech of a child who stutters to see if there is a pattern (it happens in some situations but not others, etc.) and to note if it gets better of worse. Parents of young children can ask their pediatrician's advice or talk to a preschool or nursery school teacher to see if they notice the stuttering in school.

If the problem persists for more than several months or is so severe that your child has difficulty making himself understood, parents should contact a speech and language pathologist for a formal assessment. If the child is of school age, a speech evaluation can be arranged through the special education department at a child's school. If the child is younger, parents can ask their pediatrician or preschool teacher for a recommendation. Most children's hospitals have speech and language clinics. Make sure that you identify a speech and language pathologist who has had experience with children with speech dysfluencies, such as stuttering. You may find someone who specializes in the assessment and treatment of stuttering.

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Jerome (Jerry) Schultz is the founding clinical director of the Learning Lab @ Lesley University, a program that provides assessment, tutoring, and case management services for children with learning challenges. Schultz holds a Ph.D. from Boston College, and has completed postdoctoral fellowships in both clinical psychology and pediatric neuropsychology.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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