What is stammering?

Stammering (also known as ‘stuttering’ ‘dysfluency’ or ‘bumpy talking’) is often heard in the speech of young children. They are coping with lots of life changes and new learning experiences and simply don’t yet have all the speech and language skills they need to effortlessly communicate.

During episodes of stammering, it can sound as though children are:

  • Repeating their words: “Can can can can I play that?”
  • Repeating just part of a word: “Bu bu bu but I want to!”
  • Stretching out a sound, like this: “Mmmm…ammy”
  • Getting a bit ‘stuck’ when they are trying to force out a word
  • Running out of breath

As parents you might notice or worry that they are:

  • Looking anxious or frustrated when they try to say their words
  • Blinking or pulling a face with the effort involved
  • Changing the word that is tricky to say or even avoiding talking sometimes

How to help

It can be hard to know what to do when your child’s speech gets stuck or sounds bumpy. DON’T PANIC! Almost half of all young children go through a stage of sounding as if they are stammering. Most of them move naturally through this phase of ‘bumpy talking’ often without even being aware of it happening.

Your child may not need to be referred to us; often a chat over the phone is enough to reassure you that you are helping in the most effective way. If we decide it will be helpful to meet you and your child, this will be an informal / play-based assessment session, to check out their awareness of the stammer and any impact it may be having. We will also talk to you at length about your child’s development and to fully address all your concerns, in order to decide what further assessment and help may be needed from us.

Meanwhile, here are a few extra suggestions that we know can be helpful:

  • Try to arrange some time during the day – perhaps five minutes – when your child can have your undivided attention in a calm and relaxed atmosphere.
  • Creating a feeling of calm by slowing down YOUR rate of speech. YOU talking slowly to them is known to be more helpful than telling your child to slow down, have a think or take a breath.
  • Do listen to WHAT your child is saying and not HOW he is saying it. Look at him to show you are listening and interested.
  • Do try to notice what seems to increase or reduce your child’s bumpy talking. For example, many children are at their most bumpy when overtired, over excited or trying to talk at the same time as others. Sometimes, a simple change like bringing bedtime forward or cutting an event out of a busy routine can make a real difference.
  • Try to reduce the number of questions you ask and make sure you give your child time to answer one before asking another.
  • Pay attention to the number of times your child is being interrupted, or interrupts others. Explain to all the family the importance of taking turns when talking.
  • Praise your child for things he or she is doing well (not related to talking) as this helps to build confidence.
  • As with all children, enough sleep and a healthy diet are important for mental and physical development.