Rush, rush, rush. Cooking, shopping, traveling, finishing up work deadlines, school is out, kids are excited, looking at the holiday lights, visiting with loved ones you haven’t seen in a while, squeezing in those family memories. While full of wonder and excitement, the holidays bring about additional stress. What does this mean for you or your child who stutters? Oftentimes, it leads to an increase in stuttering. Why and what can be done to help manage the increased disfluency during the holidays?
You or your child might stutter more during the holidays for a variety of reasons. Changes in schedules can trigger increased stuttering in a child or adult. If you know one of your triggers is schedule changes, you might consider keeping as close to typical schedule as possible (same bedtimes) or writing out/talking about the daily schedule so expectations are known. Even if bedtime routines are not adhered to, simply talking about and writing out the schedule for the day can make an impact, decreasing the excitement of the unknown to a minimum.
Another culprit for bumpy holiday speech is increased social interaction with those who are familiar and unfamiliar. As a consumer, you may frequent more stores and restaurants increasing interaction with clerks, servers and customer service representatives who do not know you stutter. You won’t know how they will react. As a professional, you may be going to a work party, requiring you to interact with your colleagues on a different social level or being introduced to their partners and family members. You may be spending time with friends and family you haven’t seen in a while; conversation will be a primary event when meeting up with your loved ones.
You might consider handing busy store clerks and servers a card indicating you are a person who stutters instructing them to please be patient. Or just simply tell them you stutter. You might practice disclosing your stutter to those around you so that when you go to your work party, you can state it outright in a conversation should you feel it necessary. Brush up on your kind rebuttal to loved ones who, while well-intentioned, might finish your sentences or interrupt you.
For young kids, you might warn babysitters in advance about your child’s stutter. Make sure they know to be patient, to let them finish their statements and to never in any way make fun, imitate or mock their stutter (even in “playful jest”). Make sure you allow your child to be the one to speak with Santa (in other words, don’t speak for them). Have your child participate in games that require speaking with other family members. Let them be the one to hand the holiday gift to their teacher. Encourage your child to be as independent and age-appropriate as possible with their communication, even when stuttering is more severe. Model for other listeners how you would like them to treat your child (listening to the message, not interrupting, getting down on their level) and when necessary, kindly remind the interrupting listener your child was speaking and to let them finish.
Stuttering and Speech Therapy Services can help you create strategies that help you or your child interact with others during times of increased stuttering. Together as a team, a personalized plan can be established allowing you or your child to become a confident communicator!