My child has started stammering. Should I be concerned and what should I do?

It is completely normal for a child to repeat words and phrases, and to hesitate with "um"s and "er"s, when they are sorting out what to say next. Around 8% of children - that's one in every 12 children - will experience stammering, particularly between the ages of two and five. These types of stammering behaviours will vary from child to child, can start gradually or very suddenly and may come and go over time.

There’s lots you can do to help. Here are some suggestions which can help to reduce some of the pressure a child may experience when talking.

When talking with your child

How you and others respond is important and will shape your child’s perception of themselves. Be measured in your response - try not to show you’re worried even if that’s how you’re feeling. Remain calm and relaxed and try to:

  • slow down your own rate of speech, but don't tell your child to slow down or take a deep breath
  • have one-on-one time (just five minutes every day) with your child, where they aren’t competing for attention with tasks or other family members 
  • ask one question at a time and give them plenty of time to answer
  • use short, simple sentences.

When listening to your child

Resist the very strong temptation to show anxiety, impatience or to correct or fill in their speech. Try instead to:

  • keep natural eye-contact 
  • listen to what your child is saying, not how they say it
  • pause before answering questions
  • make sure everyone in the conversation gets a turn to speak
  • acknowledge speech difficulties with reassurance and encouragement, if that feels right for you and your child. You might say something like, "Learning to talk is quite a hard thing to do - lots of people get stuck on their words and that’s OK. You’re doing really well." 

Signs that suggest the stammering may continue and your child would benefit from some help include:

  • Your child is aged between 2 and 3-and-a-half and the stammering continues for more than a few months and becomes more noticeable.
  • A family member stammers or used to stammer.
  • Your child has some speech sound difficulties.
  • Your child is aged 3-and-a-half or over, and has just started stammering.

If you are worried or if the stammering is causing you or your child distress, you can ask your doctor or health visitor to refer you to a speech and language therapist for further advice and support.


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