Stammering (dysfluency)

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Parents

Are you a parent of a child or young person with a stammer? Welcome to our page especially for you!

You are not alone! Did you know that 150,000 children and young people around the UK have a stammer?

Help and advice is available to you on our webpages. 

You can also refer your own child to our service if their stammering is worrying them, or worrying you. Fill in our online referral form if you are worried about the impact of stammering on your child’s willingness to join in activities, or on their wellbeing.

Our resources

On this page we answer some of the first questions that parents often ask us about their child’s stammering.

Will my child ‘grow out of’ stammering?

Between the ages of two and five, it is normal for a child to repeat words and phrases, and hesitate with “ums” and “ers”, especially when they are thinking about what they are going to say next.

However, about five in every 100 children stammer for a while when they are learning to talk.  These children may:

  • repeat a sound or part of a word;
  • stretch out sounds,
  • get stuck on a sound with nothing coming out;
  • develop other physical signs that they are trying to force a word out.

This is what we think of as ‘stammering’ or ‘dysfluency’ and we recommend that you contact us to discuss your child or seek a referral if your child’s speech is becoming dysfluent in these ways. 

Many children find it easier to talk fluently as they get older but others continue to find talking difficult and words often become stuck.  As children become older, about four times as many boys stammer as girls.

What can I do to help?

Research is very clear that parents do not cause stammering.  But it also shows that parents can help to reduce the impact that stammering has on their child’s life. 

  • Adapt your communication

Adapting your own communication is an important first step to helping a child who stammers.  You can help them to be as fluent as possible by:

  • Slowing down your own rate of speech to show them there is plenty of time for talking. This is much more effective and less frustrating for your child than telling them to slow down or telling them to take a breath.
  • Encouraging good turn-taking in the family so that your child feels able to take their time when speaking, without fear of being interrupted.
  • Using the same sort of sentences as your child and particularly with young children, making sure you keep sentences short and simple.
  • If your child’s stammering is very severe, then reduce the demands on them to talk. For example, give choices rather than asking open ended questions.
  • Trying to reduce the number of questions you ask and instead make more comments. This will allow your child to speak when they are ready.
  • Allowing your child to complete their own sentences, even if they are experiencing a period of stammering.

Build their confidence and self-esteem

It can also be helpful to find other ways to build your child’s confidence and self-esteem, by:

  • Giving them specific praise for things they are good at, for example “You’re very good at puzzles” or “That was a helpful thing to do”.
  • Encouraging them to participate in all activities, whilst also being mindful of their feelings.
  • Encouraging an atmosphere where it’s ok to talk about stammering so that they don’t feel this is something to be ashamed of.
  • Using descriptive rather than judgmental language to describe their stammering, for example ‘bumpy’ rather than ‘bad’, ‘smooth’ rather than ‘good’.
  • Acknowledging their feelings about stammering, for example, rather than saying “Don't worry”, it can be more helpful to say “I know this is frustrating”. 

We speak more than one language at home, should we stop?

Stammering occurs worldwide in all cultures and groups.  If your child speaks more than one language keep using both, as normal, even if your child begins to stammer.  The most important thing for your child is to get a correct adult model in the language a parent is most comfortable speaking and most fluent in.

Professionals

Do you work in a school, nursery or health service with a child or young person who stammers? Welcome to our page especially for you!

You are not alone! Did you know that 150,000 children and young people around the UK have a stammer?

Help and advice is available to you on our webpages. 

You can also refer a child to our service if their stammering is causing them frustration or worrying their parents.  Follow this link to fill in our online referral form if you have any concerns that stammering is holding a child back, impacting on their participation , or affecting their wellbeing [Link to our online referral form]

Our resources

On this page we answer some of the first questions that people often ask us about stammering.

Will this child ‘grow out of’ stammering?

Between the ages of two and five, it is normal for a child to repeat words and phrases, and hesitate with “ums” and “ers”, especially when they are thinking about what they are going to say next.

However, about five in every 100 children stammer for a while when they are learning to talk.  These children may:

  • repeat a sound or part of a word;
  • stretch out sounds,
  • get stuck on a sound with nothing coming out;
  • develop other physical signs that they are trying to force a word out.

This is what we think of as ‘stammering’ or ‘dysfluency’ and we recommend that you contact us to discuss a child or seek a referral if a child you are supporting becomes dysfluent in these ways.  [Link to online referral form]

What can I do to help?

All the adults around a child can reduce the impact that stammering has on their life.

  • Adapt your communication

Adapting your communication with a child who stammers is an important first step.  You can help them to be as fluent as possible by:

  • Slowing down your own rate of speech to show them there is plenty of time for talking. This is much more effective and less frustrating for a child than telling them to slow down or telling them to take a breath.
  • Encouraging good turn-taking in the school or nursery environment so that the child or young person feels able to take their time when speaking, without fear of being interrupted.
  • Using the same sort of sentences as the child and particularly with young children, make sure you keep sentences short and simple.
  • If the child or young person is particularly dysfluent, then reduce the demands on them to talk. For example, give choices rather than asking open ended questions.
  • Trying to reduce the number of questions you ask and instead making more comments. This will allow the child or young person to speak when they are ready.
  • Allow the child to complete their own sentences, even if they are experiencing a period of stammering.

Build their confidence and self esteem

It can also be helpful to find other ways to build their confidence and self-esteem, by:

  • Providing the child with specific praise for things they are good at, for example, “You’re very good at puzzles” or “That was a helpful thing to do”. This will help to maintain the child’s confidence and self-esteem.
  • Encouraging the child to participate in all activities, whilst also being mindful of their feelings.
  • Encouraging an atmosphere where it’s ok to talk about stammering so that they don’t feel this is something to be ashamed of.
  • Using descriptive rather than judgmental language to describe their stammering, for example ‘bumpy’ rather than ‘bad’, ‘smooth’ rather than ‘good’.
  • Acknowledging their feelings about stammering, for example, rather than saying “don't worry”, it can be more helpful to say “I know this is frustrating”.

Young People

Are you a Young Person with a stammer? Welcome to our page especially for you!

You are not alone! Did you know that 150,000 children and young people around the UK have a stammer?

On these pages you will find some helpful facts, information, and links to resources for young people who stammer, at some excellent organisations. 

If your stammer is worrying you, causing frustration, holding you back or affecting your wellbeing it would also be a good idea to ask for a referral to our Speech and Language Therapy Service here in East Sussex.  Your parents or someone at school can refer you to our service for some help and support [Link to our online referral form]. 

We will listen to you about what you have tried before, what has helped and what has not been helpful.  And we will share new ideas for tackling tricky sounds or situations, for dealing with negative thoughts, and becoming as confident as possible about speaking.

Resources

About five in every 100 children stammer for a while when they are learning to talk.  Although many children find it easier to talk fluently as they get older there are many others who continue to find talking difficult and words often become stuck. As a result about one in every 100 adults stammer.  As children become older, about four times as many boys stammer as girls.

How others can help you

Those around you can help to reduce the impact of your stammering by:

  • Adapting how they communicate
  • Building your confidence and self-esteem

We can help your parents and school staff to make these changes.  The parents’ [link] and professionals’ [link] pages of this website contain a few ideas to get them started or help them try new things.

How you can help yourself

You can also help to reduce the impact of your stammering yourself by:

  • Adapting how you communicate, to speak more easily and with less force or pressure
  • Developing ways to deal with negative thoughts and worries about stammering

We can help you to make these changes if you get a parent or someone at school to make a referral to our Speech and Language Therapy Service [link to referral form]. 

It is likely that by now you will have found some coping strategies to get through your episodes of stammering.  We will help you to do more of the strategies which work for you, and less of the ‘tricks’ which are getting in the way of you expressing yourself fully, or stopping you from feeling comfortable in social situations.

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