Stammering can also be known as ‘stuttering’ or ‘dysfluency’ – they are all the same thing. There might be a range of factors involved in why a child starts stammering, such as genetic or biological factors and speech development.

Studies suggest around 1 in 20 young people go through a period of stammering, and it is more common in boys. The nature of a person’s stammer varies and it can come and go.

Features of stammering can include:

  • Single sound repetitions eg ‘a-a-a-a-and I found a snail’.
  • Single word repetitions .g ‘and, and, and, and, and I found a snail’.
  • Prolongation eg ‘aaaaaaand I found a snail’.

Blocks eg begins placement of sound but no sound comes out.

  • Disrupted breathing pattern.
  • Changing or avoiding certain words.
  • Avoiding certain situations.
  • Avoiding eye contact when the words are ‘stuck’.
  • Changes to facial expression or muscle tension, unusual body movements eg finger tapping.

When to get help

You should get advice if a child has been showing signs of stammering for more than six months.

When you first see a therapist, they might ask about the child’s speech including what they do when they get stuck with words, how long they have had the problem and when it started, and whether there any family history of stammering.

This will help them to decide what to do next. The child may be monitored or seen by the specialist dysfluency team.

More information and support

To view our Supporting a Child’s Fluency page click here.

The British Stammering Association (STAMMA)

The Michael Palin Centre for Stammering Children

What is stammering and how can I help my child with their stammer? – BBC Tiny Happy People

BBC News Channel – I Can’t Say My Name: Stammering in the Spotlight

Stammering: ‘I thought it made me a failure’ – BBC News

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Childhood Stammering

Things we know about stammering:

Parents cannot cause stammering; we know a range of factors contribute to stammering and that these are unique for each child.

Lots of children will go through a period where the fluency of their speech is harder for them and they may repeat words, or parts of words, or get very stuck saying their words. For lots of children this can get easier over time, whilst some children may need some help to manage their fluency. There are lots of things we can do to support children with the fluency of their speech and communication.

For more information about childhood stammer, please visit: Get Support For Parents on the STAMMA website.

Things to avoid:

  • Asking your child to stop and start again.
  • Asking your child to slow down and take a breath.
  • Interrupting or finishing their sentences.
  • Commenting on how they say something.
  • Asking your child to repeat the word or sentence again.

Things that help:

  • Maintain natural eye contact- This shows that you are actively listening to what they say.
  • Comment on what they say and maintain natural conversation.
  • Slow down your own rate of speech- this will make them feel less rushed and will make it easier to follow what you are saying.
  • Pause for a second before you answer – this will make your talking slow and unhurried.
  • Reduce the number of questions asked- this will reduce the pressure on their talking.
  • Encourage turn taking in conversations- you could do this by using language such as ‘X’s turn first, then Y’s’
  • Special time– set aside 5 minutes four or more times per week where you play with your child individually. Let them choose the activity, pause, wait and watch and then follow their ideas.
  • Manage times when they are upset or excited by encouraging them to tell you about it after the event rather than when they are busy/distracted.
  • If your child is becoming aware of their stammer, say something encouraging if they become distressed – you can use words like ‘bumpy talking’ and reassure that everyone has bumpy speech sometimes.
  • Make the most of good days and ease the pressure on more dysfluent days.

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