Is my child stammering?

Trust your own judgement

Primary school child

Always contact a speech and language therapist, who ideally specialises in stammering, when you think that your child is stammering, or ask the school to do so. Most services accept referrals directly from parents. The BSA can supply contact details of your local service.

Stammering can take many different forms as a child gets older and every child who stammers will do so in his own way. Some of these characteristics are likely to be found in the speech of a primary school child who stammers

Repetition of whole words, e.g. 'when, when, when is playtime?

Repetition of single sounds or parts of words, e.g. 'g-g-go away!' Stretching sounds in a word, e.g. 'I like that s-s-story.'

Blocking of sounds, when the child's mouth appears ready to speak but no sound emerges for several seconds, e.g.'----I got a book.'

Stopping speaking half way through a sentence.

Tension signs in the face, e.g. around the eyes, lips, neck or nose.

You may find that as your child gets older he begins to become more self-conscious about his speech difficulty. He may develop his own tricks for getting out the words: an extra body movement as he tries to push out the word: for example, stamping his feet, tapping with hands or changing position.

Sometimes a primary school child is aware that his speech is different from the others in his class but he may not necessarily be concerned about it if he is still quite young. As he gets older, he is more likely to be anxious about talking and may try to get out of situations where he has to speak.

Variability

Stammering can come and go and this may be confusing for the child as well as parents and teachers who are trying to notice his speaking. It can change even within the same conversation and can fluctuate from mild to severe depending on the situation. It may range from part and whole word repetitions a few times a day for one child, to blocking for 3-4 seconds, accompanied by gestures like foot stamping, with facial contortions on nearly every other word, for another.

When does it begin?

The commonest time is between two and five years when the child's language development is at its peak. It can emerge gradually, but it may also begin very suddenly.

Learning to talk is a complex process and at least one in twenty pre-school children (5%) will have some problems with their fluency at some time when their speech is developing. It has been suggested by one researcher that it can affect as many as one in 8 pre-school children (12%), so it may be more common.

Always contact a speech and language therapist, who ideally specialises in stammering, when you think that your child is stammering, or ask the school to do so. Most services accept referrals directly from parents. The BSA can supply contact details of your local service.

Recovery from stammering

This is most likely to occur at the pre-school age, but all children are different and some may recover later than that. Other children may continue to stammer and will need support for their speech. A speech and language therapist should always be consulted for advice and the class teacher provided with information from the BSA. Most therapists are able to work with the teacher to support the child. With support a child can maintain his confidence and manage his speech.

Parents do not cause stammering but worrying about your child's speech can make you feel anxious. If you contact the BSA:Helpline you can talk about your fears with someone who understands.


Click on the following links to open a PDF, use the back button on your browser to return to this resource. To save the handout to your computer, right click and choose 'Save as'.

Text for this page: Is my child stammering?
Text for this whole section: Does your primary school child stammer?