Learning to talk, like learning to walk, is a skill that develops gradually. Many young children will often stop, start again and stumble over words while they’re learning. It’s typical for a child between the ages of two and five to repeat words and phrases and to hesitate with ‘ums’ and ‘ers’ when sorting out what to say next.
Speech is a very complex process involving many different skills. These start with having an idea and deciding what to say, then finding the right words to use, building them into a sentence and co-ordinating the muscles to make the sounds.
Different parts of the brain are needed for speech and there are subtle differences in the development of connections between these areas in young people who stammer. Young people who stammer have a speech system that needs more time to reach that end result. Speech and language therapy activities can help by strengthening the pathways in the brain.
The stammer may be episodic in nature and have periods when it goes away. It is not always possible to predict when the stammer will come and go.
About five in every hundred children stammer for a time while learning to talk.
The young person may avoid some situations, such as answering questions or certain activities involving talking in front of others. They may be left out of social groups or have difficulty making friends. They might even be subjected to teasing or bullying. The young person might appear quiet, shy, aloof, or as though they do not have much to say. This might reflect hidden feelings such as guilt, shame, fear, panic, poor self-image/self-esteem or anxiety
While many children find it easier to talk as they get older, others will be at risk of developing a persistent stammer.
If you’ve tried the above but still have concerns about your child’s fluency, please do speak to your GP or health visitor for advice.
Early intervention by a Speech and Language Therapist can help young children with fluency difficulties such as stammering.
Our team run online workshops on early language development. They are designed for parents and carers and those working within early years settings. We have three training sessions available on different topics to equip you with everyday strategies to support your child, aged up to five. Please visit our Speech and Language Therapy service page for more information and to register.
You can find additional support online by visiting:
Myth 1: The causes of stammering
Myth 2: Children will grow out of it
Myth 3: Tell a child to slow down
Myth 4: You should ignore a child's stammer
Myth 5: A speech and language therapist can cure a stammer