Parent working with her child on their speech

Supporting a child who stammers

A child who stammers may:

  • Repeat whole words, e.g., “And-and-and then I left”
  • Repeat bits of words (sounds or syllables) e.g., “C-c-come h-h-here” or “An-an-animal”
  • Prolong or stretch sounds, e.g., “Ssssssometimes I go out”
  • Block – Their tongue and lips are in position to say a word but nothing comes out
  • Tense up or do something with their body to try to get the word out, e.g., stamp feet, shift position, move their head, blink their eyes, or tap their fingers

Tips to help a child who stammers

  • Listen fully. Give your child your full attention; communicate face to face if possible.
  • Reduce the pace. Speak to your child with a slow rate. Slowing down your own rate of speech keeps the conversation calm and relaxed. Pause to allow your child time to respond.
  • Use simple language.
  • Reduce the number of questions you ask. Questions can put pressure on a child.
  • Make time for ‘special time’. Set aside five minutes for daily playtime with your child. These five minutes of quiet, calm, one-to-one time can make a big difference.
  • Encourage turn taking at home. It is helpful if the child who stammers gets their turn to talk without interruption.
  • Aim to have a good bedtime routine. If your child is tired, he/she may stammer more.
  • Try not to say things like, “Slow down”, “Think about what you want to say”, “Calm down”, or “Take a deep breath”.  It is best to let your child know you are listening and to give him/her time to finish.

Two children walking and talking

Talking about stammering

If your child is unaware that they stammer then you do not need to say anything about it. However, if your child is showing awareness of stammering, it is important to find a way to talk about it together, in a way that feels natural and right for you. Things you might say: “That’s okay, sometimes words can get a bit bumpy”, or “Don’t worry, no need to rush”.

Related links

Parents – The Michael Palin Centre for Stammering
Help For Parents | STAMMA

Stammering can also be referred to as stuttering.
The Stuttering Foundation produced this 15 minute video on tips for talking with a child who stammers/stutters.

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