What is stammering?

Stammering, also sometimes referred to as stuttering, is a relatively common speech problem in childhood which can persist into adulthood.

When a child is stammering they may take longer to say a word, often at the beginning of a sentence such as “muu mu mu mu mummy” for Mummy. Or sounds can be said longer such as “Daaaaaaddy.”

For some children this may not be a regular occurrence, they may have periods of no stammering and for others it may occur each time they speak. The severity of the stammer can be different for each individual child.

Why might my child be stammering?

It's often difficult to say why a child might be stammering. The most common form of stammering in children is developmental stammering when speech and language skills are developing quickly. This is not caused by parents doing anything wrong and support can be found for your child to help them.

  • Don't feel embarrassed or awkward about the stammer, many children have stammers, try not to make your child feel conscious of it
  • Build your child’s self-esteem and confidence, encourage them to talk in front of people
  • Show them you're listening and be patient when they're talking
  • You can develop your child’s talking skills through singing, acting, talking and reading, all of which will help with your child’s fluency
  • Look out for signs that your child is being bullied or mocked, don't let siblings or other family members be unkind about the stammer or keep highlighting it
  • Arrange one to one time where your child can feel they have time to express themselves, explain you understand that they might feel frustrated when stammering and explain how adults sometimes mix their words up or stammer occasionally
  • Follow their lead in conversation, don’t ask questions. Reduce the number of direct questions and make sure you give your child time to answer before asking another question
  • Show your child that you're interested in what they're saying, not how they're saying it. Listen closely, give good eye contact, positive body language and facial expressions
  • Allow them time to finish what they're saying and don’t finish for them

  • You should get advice if you have any concerns about your child's speech or language development
  • Treatment for stammering is often successful in pre-school children, so it's important to be referred to a specialist as soon as possible
  • Talk to a GP or health visitor about your concerns. If necessary, they may refer your child to a speech and language therapist (SLT) for an assessment
  • In many areas, you can refer your child to a children's speech and language services directly 
  • Stamma (The British Stammering Association) has more information and support for people who stammer and parents of stammering children. You can call the helpline on 0808 802 0002 from Monday to Friday from 10am to midday and 6pm to 8pm to find out about the services available in your area.