When a Child Stammers: Understand, Embrace and Support 

Did You Know?

Aristotle, Claudius Caesar, Sir Isaac Newton and Erasmus Darwin all stammered in their early childhood? In fact, some of these famous personalities grew with their habit of stammering that continued all the way into their adulthood.

Stammering did not stop them from becoming an important figure. It wasn’t their fault that they stammered from a young age; neither did they allow it to become a social weakness for them.

And as parents, it’s neither your fault if your child stammers.

It’s something that has been presented as a challenge to overcome—for you and your child—and by walking hand in hand we can conquer this challenge together.

If you are a parent of a child who stammers or know a little one in your family who stammers and want to do something about it; here is a little piece of advice which can make things for you and your little one easier:

Understand, Embrace and Support


When a Child Stammers

What is Stammering?

Stammering, stuttering or childhood-onset fluency disorder—they are all the same thing. Medical science describes it as a speech disorder that involves a deviated and disrupted pattern from the normal flow and fluency while trying to speak.  Where every one of us has the capacity to stutter under some circumstances or when exposed to a specific situation, not each floundered word can be looked upon as a sign of stammering disorder. This brings us to the next question.

What Characterizes Definite Stammering?

This is a complex question and one for which no clear guidelines have been established. For, stammering exhibits so much variability and unpredictability that it is difficult to put finger on what characterizes “definite” stammering. Plus, a child may stammer more when exposed to a pressurized situation, whereas another one may not. Similarly, a child’s fluency may improve suddenly while others may find themselves stammering overnight. That is how unpredictable it is. Yet, there are some signs and indications which are widely accepted as the speech characteristics of stammering. These are:

If your child usually struggles to complete a long sentence and hence repeating some parts of it. However, keep your ears pricked to the observation if this same difficult is experienced while your child is speaking another language (of course for bilingual cases).

  • If your child usually repeats syllables.
  • If your child usually stresses on the phonetics of some alphabets.
  • If your child is ready to speak, with facial muscles expressing the onset, but the words follow a delay.
  • If your child usually avoids eye contact during the moment of stammer. This can help you in differentiating whether the fumble was just a norm or something more than that.
  • If your child usually takes an exaggerated breath before speaking or usually speaks with a disrupted breathing pattern.

When Does Stammering Usually Begin?

Stammering usually starts when a child is in the process of learning and developing new mental and physical skills. This mental development and evolution coincides when an individual is around 2-5 years old. In most cases, the earlier signs may not appear with regular frequency and as such it could be difficult to tell whether a child is more likely to develop stammering or not. However, as the learning continues, the signs gradually grow to be more frequent and apparent. Initially 5 percent of young children exhibit stammering disorder at the young age, out of which 80 percent go on to establish speech fluency.

Does Gender Type Influence the Likeliness of an Individual to Develop Stammering?

The real reason behind it has yet not been fully discovered but it is true that boys are more likely to develop stuttering than the girls from the same age bracket.

How Some Children may Adopt Practices to Hide Stammering?

  • They may switch to another word to complete a sentence, the moment they start stammering.
  • They may avoid conversations and active participation in group discussions.

What are the Causes of Stammering?

The factors which lead or contribute to stammering are:

Physiological Factors – This includes genetic factors, stressed development of neurological system, traumatic injury to the brain and unstable speech motor skills.

Speech Factors – This includes the complexity of a language and its structuring of phrases and sentences.

Social Factors – This includes the pressure to compete with other family members to match their speech delivery and phrasing structure.

Emotional Factors – Although emotional factors like stress or introversion have not been found to develop stammering in a child but they can contribute to it, making stammering more prominent.


When a Child Stammers

After you have understood what is stammering, what causes it and what characterizes it – the next step should be, embracing it. Some parents or adults struggle to embrace the situation of their young ones and continuously try to correct them – sometimes even in an aggressive manner. Others who understand the condition, struggle with the question that whether to mention and discuss it with their children or not?

Until the parents do not embrace that their children are going through a problem, they can never deliver them the support which they need.

Until the parents and children do not embrace what they are up against, they are never going to succeed in tackling the problem.

Embrace, embrace and embrace…


When a Child Stammers

Once you understand and embrace the situation, you are in a better position to support your children.

  • Look for professional help if possible. This could be your general practitioner, a psychologist or a local speech and language therapy center. There are people out there who are ready to extend a helping hand and offer a warming support – you just need to be open about it and approach them.
  • Consult a family you know that has recovered from a similar experience and share your concerns and learn how they managed the situation.
  • Express patience and compassion while maintaining a discussion. However, make sure that your compassion does not transcend into sympathy. There is nothing to be sympathized for – no one is perfect. Encourage the young ones and pat them with occasional praise whenever your child manages to execute the delivery – no matter even if it is imperfect. Talk to them regularly and make sure you listen to their concerns and reservations.

We all stumble in different phases of life. But with right support and a helping hand – we walk again and onwards. Therefore, make sure, when you child stammers, you:

“Understand, Embrace and Support”.

© Teresa Boardman, Nanny Options 2017.

Browse other Parenting Guide articles from Nanny Options
or keep up to date with us on Facebook.