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  • Stammering (or stuttering) is defined as a disorder of rhythm in which the speaker knows precisely what he wishes to say, but cannot, for the moment, say it because of an involuntary repetition, prolongation or cessation of sound.

  • What we hear when a Stammerer is speaking, is someone who may be repeating himself on sounds or words, stretching out a sound or blocking getting stuck on a sound. People are often unaware that this "blocking" is also stammering. As well there may be words added to try to get him "started", for example "oh yeah" or "uhmm-er"

  • Frequently, there may be behaviours associated with Stammering that we can see as well as hear. There may be lack of eye contact, tapping in rhythm, clicking of fingers, or body rocking.

    Even though stammering can be commonly defined, each Stammerer has his own individual way.

    How Often does it happen?

  • 3% of the population stammer.

  • Approximately 1% of Primary School children stammer, that is 1 in every 100.

  • There is a difference between males and females - 3 males to 1 female stammer.

  • One still does not know the exact cause of Stammering.

  • A genetic or inherited component has been identified.
    This means that if a parent is a Stammerer, the child will have a higher chance of stammering compared with someone whose parents do not stammer.

  • Regular research has shown that Stammerers are less able to plan physical actions accurately.
    But this does not mean that they are poor sports people or that they are clumsy.

  • The only observable area where difference shows up between those who stammer and those who don't is in the speech.

  • We do know that a Stammerer is no different to someone who does not stammer in the following areas: emotionally, psychologically or intellectually.

  • For each person who is a Stammerer with problems in these areas, there is a non-stammerer who may have the same problems.

Side Effects

Unfortunately, the Stammerer is often tagged: shy, nervous or slow.

At school, this can cause a drop in achievement levels. As an adult, it can affect the choice of job or employment opportunities offered to him because of these tags.

Like any normal individual, the Stammerer soon learns to dislike or retreat from areas that he regularly does not do well in. Not doing well, in this case, is represented by stammering.

Examples of this retreat or dislike are: talking to groups, answering questions in class, speaking on the telephone.


Most children who stammer have started to demonstrate this behaviour by the time they are five years of age.

They do have a chance of "growing out of it". This chance, unfortunately, becomes slimmer as children grow older. It is unlikley that a child at the end of Primary School education will stop stammering without treatment. Early assessment by a qualified Speech Pathologist (therapist) is recommended at a young age.

Most children, while acquiring speech and language - that is: sounds, words, grammar and all communication skills - go through a period of normal dysfluency. The sorts of things we identify in this category are:

  • Simple word and phrase repetitions such as "Mummy, I-I-I went to the shop".

  • Revisions and interjections into speech such as "Mummy, I-we went to the shop".

The sorts of things we identify as Stammering in young children are:

Prolongations such as "Mmmummy".

  • Blocks - where the child appears to be in a momentary spasm in the face and/or throat area.

  • Inserting a sound due to tension such as "b-eaby" for "baby".

  • Uncontrollable pitch change.

  • Multiple repetition of sounds such as "b-b-b-b-aby".

  • Multiple part word repetitions such as "ba-ba-bababy".

We also know that Stammerers may be late in passing their speech milestones. This is not to suggest that the Stammering child remains behind, but that he may have problems to start with.


Stammering (or Stammering) can be treated.

Stammerers themselves often report that they may stammer less when: singing, praying, reading with someone, or whispering. Unfortunately, we cannot go around whispering or singing every time we want to talk.

We also know that common advice given by parents - stop; slow down; think before you talk; breathe - can also be effective.

By using some, or all, of these pieces of knowledge, the best treatment generally makes the job of speaking less complicated. It does this through teaching step-by-step how to change the sounds, rhythm, speed, breathing, or all of these so as to stop a stammer from happening.

After treatment

By the time someone is thirty (30) years of age, they may have had 200,000 hours of practice at Stammering.

A teenager may have about half of these hours. Therefore they need help to practice "not stammering" after treatment.
Associations such as Weight Watchers and Alcoholics Anonymous are there to help people practise new skills.
Other organisation exist to help Stammerers to stay fluent. That is - not stammer.

The period immediately after treatment is the time most widely recognised as being the most difficult one in which new speech skills are being used.

What can you do if you are a Parent

  • Have your child assessed by a Speech Pathologist.

  • Slow your own speech down.

  • Slow him down, not just his speech. For example, if the child is very excited or upset, settle or slow down his overall behaviour first, then his speech.

  • Try to give him "air time" to talk.

  • Expand on what the child is saying:- for example: Child: "Mummy, b-b-b-erlue car". Mummy: "That's right, it's a blue car. Daddy has a big blue car too, hasn't he?".

This lets the child know that you are listening to what he is saying, not just how he is saying it. You are also correcting or helping his language development by giving him more information, more language to learn from.

At home, you can be a good model for your child's speech and language development.

What you can do if you are a Teacher

The approach you use with the Stammering child will not take extra exercises but it can benefit all children. In class, encourage the child to stop and think before answering questions, rather than "blurting it out".
Encourage the child to speak and answer slowly and carefully. You can act as a model. Correct speech errors by your good speech example, rather than telling him that what he said was wrong.

  • Ask the Stammering child questions.

  • Give him time to answer.

  • Talk with him about his classroom speaking concerns.

  • Check that the child has been referred to a Speech Pathologist.

If you know someone who Stammers

People are often embarrassed when talking to a Stammerer because they don't know whether to try and help by saying the word. The best thing to do is ask the Stammerer. He will tell you what will help the most.

If you are a Stammerer:

  • Regardless of your age, help IS available.
  • There are a variety of treatments that DO work.
  • You don't have to keep stammering.
  • How to find out about treatment
  • Contact a local Speech Pathologist at your nearest public hospital or Health Department.
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