What is stammering?
Stammering is when a child, young person or adult talks in the following ways:
- They get stuck trying to say a word: ‘I want some… juice’
- They stretch sounds in words: ’Can I have a ssssstory?’?
- They repeat sounds in words or parts of the word: Mu-mu-mu-mummy
- They repeat whole words: ‘Where where where are we going?’
- They may try to stop or hide their stammer by tensing their body or holding their breath.
Some families feel concerned when their child starts to stammer and want to help their child. Some families and some adults who stammer take pride in their stammering and see it as part of what makes them unique.
What’s the difference between stammering and stuttering?
Stammering and stuttering mean the same thing. In the UK we tend to use the word ‘stammering’.
What causes stammering?
There isn’t one single cause of stammering. What we do know is:
- Stammering can run in families.
- Stammering often begins between the ages of two and five, when children are starting to talk using more words and longer sentences.
For most children, stammers go away in time. For some children, they will continue to stammer as adults. It is not possible to know which children will continue to stammer. You can find out more information on the factors that make children more likely to stammer by following the links below.
What should I do if I think a child is stammering?
Children who get support early for their stammer can do better, so you should talk to the child’s parents and find out if they are concerned. If they are, encourage them to see a speech and language therapist. Please see our information on how to find a speech and language therapist.
You or the child’s family can also contact our speech and language advice line, which is a confidential phone call with an experienced speech and language therapist. During the 30-minute call, you will be given the opportunity to talk through your concerns and questions regarding a child’s development. You can book your phone call here.
What can I do to help a child who is stammering?
- Slow down your own talking so the child doesn’t rush to keep up with you. It’s best not to ask the child to ‘slow down’ or ‘take a breath’.
- Be patient and give the child time to finish their sentences – however long it takes them to do this. Saying things like “I’m listening” and “There’s no hurry” can be reassuring.
- Use comments, not testing questions. Testing questions are questions that you already know the answer to. Testing questions can make children feel under pressure to talk, which could make the child more likely to stammer. Comments invite the child to join in with a conversation if they want to, but without them feeling under pressure. Compare:
- Testing question: What colour is this?
- Comment: Wow, I love this blue car.
- Try to give the child your full attention when they are talking to you.
- Try to notice if there are situations when the child’s talking is more or less fluent. It helps to try to avoid situations where the child feels under increased pressure and may be more likely to stammer.
- Talk to the child’s parents so that everyone is using the best strategies to support the child.
Find out more by going to: