Stuttering (also known as stammering) is a speech difference characterised by intermittent disruptions in the flow of speech.
Stuttering is a neurologically-based speech difference which intermittently makes it physically hard to speak. Someone who stutters knows what they want to say but may repeat, prolong, or get physically stuck in the moment of saying sounds or words. There might also be signs of visible tension and effort as the person works to get a word out, or the person might work to find alternative words or phrases so they can say something in a different way.
Stuttering is an invisible disability
At least 1 in 100 adults stutter
More men than women stutter
8% of all children stutter for at least a while
Often first appears between the ages of 2 and 5 years
Can also start in adulthood associated with changes in the way the person’s brain is working
Not associated with specific personality traits or intellectual abilities
Stuttering can be invisible because it fluctuates and because some people who stutter mask it from others
See the 2-minute video below to see how stuttering varies from person to person and to get quick tips on how to talk to someone who stammers.
Fluent speakers often misunderstand why someone’s speech contains these disruptions. Stuttering is not a reflection of competence, skill or knowledge, and people who stutter are found in a wide range of careers, including those which require high level communication skills.
How often and how intensely a person stutters often fluctuates from day to day, and also from situation to situation. Stuttering is not caused by anxiety, nervousness, or excitement, but these emotions can increase stammering.
Patterns of stuttering differ from person to person, along with the way each person works through those moments of stuttering. Some common features are listed below.
What you might see and hear
- Prolongation of words and sounds, e.g. ‘sssssssslide’Word and sound prolongation
- Repetition of sounds, syllables, or words, e.g., ‘ta-ta-ta-table’
- Difficulty starting a sound or word
- Broken words or pauses within a word, e.g., ‘heli------copter’
- The use of additional words such as “um” as a ‘run-up’ to a stuttered word or to prevent someone else from interrupting during a moment of stuttering
- Tension and tightness seen on face and upper body when working hard to speak
- Breaking eye contact when stuttering
What you might not see or hear
- Changing words or finding other ways to say the same thing
- Speaking less in situations where stuttered speech is not welcomed
- Avoiding or worrying about certain situations due to concerns about negative reactions from others
- Asking for something you don’t want because it’s easier to say than the thing you do want
- Dealing with insensitive reactions from others
Action for Stammering Children: https://actionforstammeringchildren.org/about-stammering/stammering-facts/
NHS UK Oxford Health: https://www.oxfordhealth.nhs.uk/cit/resources/stammering-dysfluency/
The Stuttering Foundation: https://www.stutteringhelp.org/training/what-makes-you-you-developing-child-who-stutters
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