Stuttering is OKAY!
Facts, Myths and Promoting Confidence in Speaking in Your Child
What is Stuttering?
Stuttering is a disorder that disrupts the forward flow of speech. Over three million
Americans stutter. Many children go through periods of stuttering (often referred to as
developmental stuttering) as they develop language. About 75% of these children will
overcome their stuttering within approximately 6 months. The other 25% may continue to
stutter. Stuttering may come and go for days, weeks, or even months at time. It may also
appear to be more frequent on some days than others, or occur more frequently on particular
sounds or words. There are a lot of common misconceptions about stuttering. It is important
to understand what stuttering is (and is not!), as well as the right things to say and do to help
your child be a successful, confident communicator.
Myths About Stuttering
1. You can “fix” a stutter.
Nope! And that’s okay! There is no magic wand to be waved or anti-stuttering spell to be cast
to “fix” a stutter. That being said, there are many things that speech-language pathologists,
parents and other adults can do to help a child to speak more smoothly and be more
2. People stutter because they are nervous.
Another big nope! As human beings, we all get a bit tripped up on our words when we are in
situations that make us nervous or uncomfortable (am I right?!). Some disfluencies in our
speech are normal, especially if we are in a high stress situation. People and children who
have a true stutter do not stutter simply because they are nervous. There are a multitude of
factors that contribute to stuttering (which we will save for another time…), but being
nervous just isn’t one of them.
3. People who stutter are not smart.
The. Biggest. Nope. Of. All. People who stutter are just as intelligent and capable of
accomplishing amazing things as people who do not stutter. Joe Biden, J. Edgar Hoover,
Andrew Lloyd Webber, Adrian Peterson, B.B. King, Nicole Kidman, and Marilyn Monroe are all
members of the people who stutter club, and I think we can agree that they have been pretty
successful! Stuttering does not equal stupid.
How can I enhance my child’s fluency and build confidence in speaking?
Like we stated in our myths above, there is no “cure” for stuttering, but there are things we
can do to help a child be more fluent and, most importantly, BE CONFIDENT.
What to AVOID saying
-“Take a breath and try again.”
-“Think first, then talk.”
These types of responses sound helpful, but at the end of the day can cause a lot of shame
and embarrassment around speaking, and can even cause stuttering to become worse. Avoid
these responses and follow the tips below!
Some other no-nos...
-Do not finish your child’s sentences or interrupt them. Even if you know what they are
trying to say, let them finish. Interrupting may cause them to feel embarrassed or as though
their words and thoughts don’t matter.
-Do not rush your child when they’re speaking. Just like above, rushing them may make them
feel like they aren’t valued or that their stuttering is not okay. Be patient and allow them to
finish in their own time.
-Do not allow your child to avoid consequences for undesirable or unexpected behaviors
because they stutter. The same rules still apply! It is difficult as a parent to watch your child
struggle through anything- including struggling to get out their words. This is especially hard
when their stuttering is hurting their self-confidence, but do not let them off the hook for
anything you wouldn’t usually. Allowing stuttering to be an excuse to act out or be used as a
crutch will not benefit them in the long run.
What can I say or do to help?
-Speak in a slow, calm manner, but keep it natural. Dory speaking “whale” is not what we
are going for here. Just keep your rate at a naturally, slow pace. This can be hard to do, but
try to get in the habit of slowing down!
-Pause for 2-3 seconds before responding to your child. This also helps to set the pace of
your conversation and keeps things slower and more relaxed.
-Try your best not to react with facial expressions or body language when your child stutters.
AKA, work on that poker face. Showing on your face that you are anxiously waiting for you
child to finish, trying to hurry them up, or becoming frustrated may also contribute to
feelings of shame or embarrassment. Keep a neutral, listening face while speaking with your
-Avoid “rapid fire” questions, particularly if you notice your child stuttering a lot on that day
or in that moment. Asking questions is a normal part of conversation, but when questions are
asked one right after another it can put a lot of pressure on any speaker, especially a child
who is stuttering. During conversation when your child responds to a question, instead of
asking another one you might comment on something that they said, or something that they
are doing to keep the conversation going. This one is especially hard, but you can become
better at it with practice!
-Give your child your FULL attention when they are speaking with you. Show them that what
they have to say matters to you. Realistically, no parent gives their child their FULL
attention EVERY TIME they speak- I know! If you notice a lot of stuttering, however, try to be
more mindful of giving your attention to your child. It is helpful to set aside 5-10 minutes a
day to simply talk and play with your child without interruptions. This can be HUGE in
building their confidence.
Does my child need speech therapy? What can a speech-language pathologist do to help?
Once again, there is no magic cure for stuttering, even if you are a speech-language
pathologist! There are, however, strategies and tools that can be taught and practiced in
therapy to help your child “stutter better’’. These tools will teach your child to be aware of
their stuttering moments in order to use techniques to make their speech less “bumpy’’.
Treatment will also likely include counseling and targeting acceptance of stuttering to reduce
or eliminate any negative emotional impact. Treatment of stuttering looks different for all
children. There are many factors to consider, including age of the child, frequency of
stuttering, child’s emotional response to stuttering, etc. If you are concerned about your
child, the first step is to schedule an evaluation with a speech-language pathologist who can
help you determine if therapy would be beneficial.
The Big Takeaways
STUTTERING IS OKAY! It is not a problem to be fixed, but a difference to be
embraced. As the parents and loved ones in the life of a child who stutters, we need to
believe this in order for them to believe it. The most important thing is building confidence
and acceptance of stuttering. If you have any additional questions, please reach out to our offices 615-614-8833.
Written By: Emily Johnson, Speech-Language Pathologist M.S.Ed., CCC-SLP