Q. My husband had a stutter when he was little, and I’ve heard it can be genetic. Is there anything proactive we should be doing for our toddler?
A. There is a genetic link with stuttering – approximately 60% of people who stutter also have a family member who stutters. Knowing the difference between normal disfluencies (irregularities in speech patterns) and true stuttering can help you recognize when you may need to seek help. Typical disfluencies occur between the ages of 18 months and 7 years old and present mostly as repetitions of whole words or phrases at the beginning of a sentence. Repeating initial sounds or syllables of words more than one to two times, prolonging sounds at the beginning of words, and showing signs of physical tension when stuttering are less typical and warrant a referral to a speech-language pathologist. Modeling a slow, relaxed manner of speaking, setting aside specific times to provide undivided attention and listen to your child, and focusing on what your child has said rather than the disfluencies can help encourage your child and promote fluency.
Q. I am pregnant and still in my first trimester, but it’s time for my regular checkup. Is it safe to visit the dentist right now?
A. Taking care of your dental health is very important throughout pregnancy. Preventive dental cleanings and exams during pregnancy are not only safe, they’re recommended in all three trimesters. The rise in hormone levels during pregnancy causes the gums to swell, bleed, and trap food, which can cause increased irritation to your gums. Your dentist can help with any of these pregnancy-related symptoms.
If any dental work like fillings or crown placement needs to be done, it is often recommended to either wait until the second trimester or until after the baby is born, unless it is considered necessary due to chance of dental infection. It is important to avoid oral infections such as gum disease during pregnancy, since they can be linked to preterm birth.
Be sure to inform your dentist that you are pregnant, and he or she will help guide you throughout the process.
Q. My husband drinks a few beers each night when he gets home from work to take the edge off. Is that okay, or could it be a sign of an issue?
A. The first question I would ask is, “What is prompting you?” Is it primarily his behavior and mood? Does he have a family history of alcoholism? Are you worried because of your own struggles, a family history, or something you read? If his behavior is causing a concern, there are a few things to pay attention to. Does he miss social occasions or activities? Does his routine impact your relationship? Are there times he talks about cravings, or has he talked about trying to cut back at all? If any of these are true, it could be a sign that he is at risk for having a problem. In any scenario, letting your significant other know that their behavior is impacting you is a great form of healthy communication in a relationship.
Q. My father is suffering from dementia. Do you have any tips for the best ways to communicate with him?
A. Communicating with someone suffering from dementia is a challenge, but there are few ways to make conversation a bit easier for both parties.
- Conversation will be much easier in a quiet room with little distraction. Also, make sure that you have the person’s full attention before you begin talking.
- During the conversation, make sure you are speaking slowly and clearly. It will take a person with even mild dementia longer to process what you are saying.
- Try not to ask too many questions; this may confuse or frustrate someone with dementia. Yes and no questions are easier. If he/she does not seem to understand the question or conversation, try rephrasing it rather than repeating it.
Dementia is a difficult and progressive disease. However, conversation can be an important part of increasing stimulation, which is beneficial for cognitive health.
Q. My daughter was recently diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Can music therapy help?
A. Music therapy can be an effective way to help a child on the spectrum with communication. Musical scales, chords, lyrics, or rhythms are used to “meet” a child wherever he or she may be at the time (happy, bouncing, upset, vocal self-stimulating behavior, etc.). As the therapist/patient bond increases, some children on the spectrum are able to move through a variety of emotional changes with music. Communication skills are developed through song lyrics or even drum beats. Social skills are practiced as children are placed in small groups with peers to pass instruments or wait for their turn. Motor skills can always be incorporated as children work to hold mallets or guitar picks and play large drums or other instruments. Music is a creative process – it can also be an intentional doorway.