Facts about Stammering and Stuttering
Updated: Aug 17
Do you have a child in your school or preschool setting who has a stutter or stammer?
Have you ever wondered what causes stuttering? Why did your child develop a stammer? How can you help them?
Here are some facts about stammering and stuttering.
Around 1 in every 12 children will stutter.
This means that in every class of 30, 2 or 3 children will have (or have had) a stutter.
Stuttering affects up to 8% of children (according to the British Stammering Association).
Most children start stammering aged between 2 and 5 years old, although some will start stammering later.
A stammer can be acquired later in life as a result of a head injury or psychological trauma, but this is less common.
There are around 1.5 million adults in the UK who stammer.
As a Speech and Language Therapist, I get asked a lot of questions about stammering. I've answered a few of them here to help adults working in education settings to help children who have a stammer or stutter.
What’s the difference between stuttering and stammering?
There’s no difference, we use the terms interchangeably. I tend to use ‘stammer’ and my colleagues in the United States use ‘stutter’ more.
What are the causes of a stutter or stammer?
Stammering is a neurological condition related to the parts of the brain where speech develops.
Research into stammering has indicated genetic factors, with around 60% of people who stammer having a family member who has (or had) a stammer.
A child’s personality and temperament may also be a factor, with research finding that some young children who stammer being more shy, anxious or emotionally reactive. This is not always the case though and more research is needed.
Stammering is not linked to intellectual ability.
When does stammering happen?
There are some more obvious triggers that we clinicians see when children stammer more. These include when they are feeling rushed, over-excited or if someone is interrupting them.
Boosts in language development, with children using longer sentences, adding in more description and adjectives to their phrases. For example, children go from simple sentences like “that dog!” to “I can see that dog over there next to that ball”.
Word finding difficulties can lead to a person’s speech becoming bumpy with repetitions or filler words like “uh”, “um” or “er” while the look for the word they want to use.
Expressive language difficulties such as sentence formulation or sequencing ideas can lead to stuttering
Is there a cure for stammering?
Well, there’s no vaccine or special medicine to make a stammer go away, sorry.
A Speech and Language Therapist (or Pathologist in the USA) will take into consideration the whole picture around the child to analyse how their stammer presents, assessment of their language skills, patterns in their stammer and identify possible catalysts to their stammering.
From there the Speech Therapist can suggest the best possible way to help that particular child.
For some this may involve therapy sessions and specific exercises or activities to help, for others there will be work for adults at home and school to do to help the child in those environments.
How can we support the child in our school?
There are a few things you can do to help the child in your setting.
DO try to be patient.
DON’T finish their sentence or offer words
DO make sure everyone takes turns to talk in a group or whole class situation.
DON’T let other children (peers or siblings) interrupt or talk over the child who stammers.
DO try to talk with a slower pace to your words. This will help your child to slow down the pace of their own talking.
DON’T tell them to take a breath, slow down or start again.
DO make sure you are looking at them when you are talking to them. Maintaining eye contact with the person they are talking to is reassuring for children.
DON’T let yourself be distracted with other things (like your phone or endless list of things an adult needs to get done in a day- I know, it’s not easy) while your child is trying to talk to you.
Would you like some resources to help you support the children in your setting?
Click here to download a list of strategies for education settings to use to support children who stammer.
I have created a course on Stammering for school and preschool staff (and parents who might be interested too!) . Click here for more information.
If you’d like me to keep you informed of new information and resources that I have created, you can join my free mailing list.