Stammering (also known as ‘stuttering’) is a physical difficulty, where the flow and timing of speech is disrupted. Small differences in the connections of the brain result in a difficulty in speaking.

Parents do not cause stammering and it is not caused by anxiety or stress, although these feelings may impact on stammering. A person who stammers may repeat sounds or words, stretch out sounds or physically get stuck on a word.

Stammering is often associated with tension or struggle when trying to speak. Sometimes it leads to increased feelings of frustration, upset, embarrassment and shame. Negative reactions from others can affect a person’s thoughts, feelings, and the way they behave.

A person who stammers may tried to hide or minimise their stammer by avoiding or changing words, avoiding certain speaking situations, or choosing not to speak.

Stammering facts

  • About 8% of children will stammer at some point. It is common in children between the ages of 2 and a half and 5 years old. It can also start later in life.
  • Up to 3% of adults will continue to stammer throughout their life.
  • There is no link between stammering and intellectual ability.
  • Stammering varies from day to day and from situation to situation. It varies from individual to individual.
  • Stammering can be a hereditary condition – about 60% of people who stammer will have another family member who also stammers.
  • The term ‘stammering’ is used in the UK, other countries refer to it as ‘stuttering’. They both mean the same thing.

When should I refer for support?

Refer to us for more support when one or more of the following apply:

  • Any child over 3 years old where stammering is a concern.
  • Child has been stammering for over 1 year.
  • There is a family history of stammering.
  • Child is aware and would like help for their stammer.
  • Child has moments of stammering that are associated with lots of tension, effort, and struggle.
  • Child is becoming increasingly frustrated, angry, upset, embarrassed and/or anxious.
  • Child is experiencing teasing and bullying.
  • Child gives up on what they are trying to say, changes or avoids words or avoids certain speaking situations.
  • Child’s stammer is impacting on their confidence, self-esteem, and ability to take part in a range of speaking situations.
  • Child has a stammer and has other speech, language, or communication difficulties.
  • High level of parental concern.

About us - What do we offer?

Children and young people 0-19 years, who stammer, are offered an assessment and advice is provided to parents/carers and settings. We ask parents/carers and significant others to implement the advice at home and at nursery/school so that we are working together in supporting a child’s fluency.

We work with the whole family to increase their understanding and knowledge of stammering and give them the tools they need to support their child’s fluency in everyday conversations and situations. We recommend Parents/Carers attend one of our stammering training sessions to learn more about stammering and the important role they play in supporting their child’s fluency.

The Speech and Language Therapy Service provides a range of therapy approaches for children who stammer and their families. Therapy offered is tailored to an individual child’s needs and will be discussed with the child and their family at assessment.

Our aims of therapy are to:

  • minimise the impact stammering is having on the child or young person
  • help others to implement strategies and make changes in the environment to support fluency
  • help make speaking easier and less effortful for the child or young person
  • build confidence and self esteem
  • help the child or young person to become a confident communicator.

Where it is appropriate we work with the child and young person on reducing avoidances and associated negative feelings and emotions and help them to accept and feel okay about their stammer.

The service has a specialist stammering team, who work with children and young people, between the ages of 7-19 years old, who have a stammer. We offer 1:1 specialist assessment and advice and provide a range of therapy approaches, tailored to an individual child’s needs. Therapy is offered as 1:1 sessions and/ or group therapy. We run intensive therapy groups for 7-9 year olds, 9-12 year olds and Teenagers. The groups provide an opportunity to meet other children who stammer, to share experiences, to build confidence and reduce feelings of isolation. We also deliver training to parents/carers, staff in nurseries/preschool settings and schools and to Speech and Language Therapists, within our department.

Top tips for supporting children who stammer

Pauses and slowing down

  • Use more pauses in your own speech and to use a slow relaxed style of speaking when talking to the child. Give yourself extra ‘thinking time’ before you answer.  
  • This will help to reduce the pace of the conversation and the feeling of needing to rush and will provide a good model for speed of talking.


Wait and give your child time

Give your child plenty of time to respond to help them to plan and process what to say

  • Wait and let your child finish his/her sentences. Finishing off sentences is unhelpful as it reduces self-confidence and increases frustration; especially if the person chooses words different from those intended by the stammering child.
  • Be mindful that that your own body language is not signalling for your child to rush.
  • Avoid interrupting your child or helping them to say a word.
  • Avoid making suggestions of things they could do to change their speech (ie: don’t say ‘stop, slow down, take a breath’). If interrupted, your child may lose their train of thought or feel like their speech is being corrected.


Keep eye contact

Children often lose eye contact when stammering. It’s helpful if you don’t look away but give the same eye contact as you would if speaking to a child who is fluent.This shows that you are listening to what they are saying rather than how they are saying it.


Encourage turn taking

Encourage everyone in the family to have a turn similar in length.

  • You could use an object, for example, at the dinner table, to indicate someone’s turn. When you have the object you can take your turn at speaking and others need to listen and wait until you have finished before they speak and hold the object.
  • Take time to think and speak.
  • Listen carefully to each other.
  • Allow others to finish their point. Be patient.
  • Respect opinions.


Reducing questions

Questions often demand an immediate response which can increase pressure on the child who stammers and can increase the demands on their language skills and sometimes leads to more stammering

  • Reduce the number of questions you ask by asking one question at a time and give your child plenty of time to answer.
  • Make comments instead of asking a question (‘the cat is sleeping on the wall’ instead of ‘where is the cat?’ ‘I had a sandwich for my lunch’ instead of ‘what did you have for lunch today?’)


One to one special time

Have 5 to 10 minutes of one to one time with your child every day, where there aren’t any distractions and there is no competing for attention with other family members.

  • Do something together that your child enjoys, look at a book together, talk about your day, play a game.
  • Give your child your full listening and undivided attention.
  • Use this time to try out one of the strategies you have read about or that you have chosen with your Speech and Language Therapist to focus on.

Further links and advice

Useful websites


YouTube videos

My Stammering Tap - Increases awareness of what is stammering
Hull City of Culture

7 Top Tips for Talking - Ways to support a child who stammers
Michael Palin Centre Action for Stammering children

Wait I’m not finished - Stammering information for teachers
Michael Palin Centre Action for Stammering children

Has your preschool child started stammering? - Information for parents

Is it my fault that my child has started stammering? - Information for parents

Should I be worried that my preschool child is stammering? - Information for parents

How you can help a child who stammers - Information for parents
Part one
Part two

Why do some children stammer? - South Tees SLT

Practical advice to support a child who stammers - South Tees SLT Team



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