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What is stuttering?

Stuttering is when a person has trouble speaking and hesitates on or repeats certain syllables, words or phrases. Stuttering is common in toddlers and children ages 1½ -5 years of age as they are learning to speak. Most stuttering will resolve on its own as a child’s speech and language continues to develop. However, some will not. Stuttering is more concerning when it affects your child’s ability to communicate and lasts for several months.

What are signs of typical versus less typical speech concerns?

Typical (More likely to resolve)

Less typical (More likely to continue)

Words and phrases

  • Repeating phrases and whole words
  • Using words like "um," "uh," and "like"

Words and phrases

  • Repeating sounds or syllables (parts of words)
  • Prolongations (holding one sound or continuing to say a sound until finishing the word, e.g. ssssssss-nake)
  • Blocks (trying to talk, but no sound comes out)
  • Stuttering is affecting your child's ability to communicate

Physical signs

  • Feeling relaxed and unaware while talking
  • No stress or physical effort while talking
  • No other noticeable behaviors while talking
  • No frustration or avoiding talking

Physical signs

  • Stress or noticeable effort while talking
  • Feeling frustrated and avoiding talking
  • Tremors (shaking) or other behaviors while talking, such as talking louder to get words out or blinking

Family history

  • No family history of stuttering

Family history

  • Family history of stuttering

Length of time

  • Stuttering lasts shorter than 6 months

Length of time

  • Stuttering lasts after 3 years of age
  • Stuttering has lasted for 6 months or longer

What is a speech and language evaluation?

A speech and language evaluation will help determine whether your child is stuttering, is at risk for continued stuttering, and whether therapy would be appropriate. Talk to your child’s pediatrician if you are concerned.

How can I help my child at home with stuttering?

Here are a few ways you can help your child at home if he stutters:

  • Model slow and easy speech when you talk instead of telling your child to slow down or relax.
  • Ask 1 or 2 questions at a time (not several all at once). Let your child answer/comment on each question separately.
  • Slow down your conversations. When your child talks to you, wait 1-2 seconds before responding.
  • Do not interrupt or finish your child’s sentence.
  • Tell your child that talking is hard sometimes. This can be helpful when your child feels frustrated.
  • Plan to spend time with your child one-on-one.
  • Teach your family members these tips. This can help your child feel supported as he learns to cope with stuttering.

Where can I learn more about stuttering?

Rev. 3/2018. Reviewed by the CARMA Advisory Board. Mass General for Children and Massachusetts General Hospital do not endorse any of the brands listed on this handout. This handout is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treatment of any medical conditions.