A stammer (or stutter) is a speech disorder characterised by disruptions which interrupt the smooth flow of speech. These may take the form of repetitions of sounds, syllables or words – like saying ‘da-da-daddy’. Stammering is possibly one of the more well-known areas of work of Speech and Language Therapists. ‘The King’s Speech’ (2010), raised a lot of awareness of stammering through telling the story of King George VI’s journey with stammering.
Stammering is not uncommon in pre-schoolers as they learn to talk, and it can affect up to 8% of children (about 1 in 12). Much of this stammering is short lived (between the ages of 2 and 5) and does not always persist but it is not easy to tell if it will continue.
What causes stammering?
Research suggests that stammering is a neurological condition related to the part of the brain responsible for speech development. Stammering can run in families with around 60% of people who stammer also having a family member who stammers (or used to). Parents do not cause stammering.
When a child begins to stammer it can be a worrying time for parents but there are a number of things that can help.
How can I help my child when they stammer?
It is important to reduce any pressure a child might experience when talking by doing the following:
- use short sentences when talking to your child
- slow down your own rate of speech (but don’t tell your child to slow down or take a breath)
- maintain natural eye contact
- concentrate on what your child is saying, not how they say it
- pause before answering their questions
- try not to finish the word or sentence
- don’t ask too many questions and allow plenty time for the child to respond
- give praise for things the child does well
When to seek help?
The impact of a stammer can be significant, impacting self-confidence, social skills and career prospects. If you or your child are worried about stammering, it is important to seek the advice of a Speech and Language Therapist to ensure the appropriate support for your child and to minimise impact. The British Stammering Association have a free helpline to discuss concerns around stammering and can help you to find details of your local NHS SLT Service. For further information see www.stamma.org. Alternatively, you can contact us to discuss any concerns you may have.