Find out how you as a parent or guardian can help your child who stammers.
We know it can feel scary at first when your child stammers. You might worry if you're doing the right thing to help them. It's OK.
There are lots of things you can do to help. The tips below may not seem like big changes but they can make a huge difference. They can reduce the pressure your child may feel when talking.
We'll also tell you how to get extra help, and about our parent support groups and workshops. If you still have questions or concerns, chat to us. Phone our free helpline on 0808 802 0002 or start a webchat.
Is my child stammering?
Is your child speaking differently but you're not sure if it's a stammer? See What Is Stammering? to find out what it sounds and looks like.
Talking with your child
How you and other people respond to your child's stammer is important. It will shape your child’s perception of themselves. It's OK to feel worried at first, but if you seem anxious, it may make your child feel worried too. Try to stay neutral even if that's not how you're feeling.
Here are some things you can do:
- Slow down your own rate of speech and use longer pauses. This keeps the conversation calm and relaxed.
- Don't tell your child to slow down or take a deep breath. Instead, tell them that there is plenty of time and you are happy to wait for them.
- Try to have regular one-to-one time with your child, even if it's just for five minutes. Find time when they aren't competing with tasks or other family members for attention.
- Ask one question at a time and give them plenty of time to answer. Show them it's okay to pause and take some time between hearing and answering questions.
- Use short, simple sentences.
- Don't interrupt or try to finish their sentences for them. While it may feel helpful, if you get it wrong they have to start all over again.
- Keep natural eye-contact.
- Listen to what your child is saying, not how they say it.
- Make sure everyone in the conversation gets a turn to speak.
- If it feels right for you and your child, it's okay to acknowledge when they are finding it more difficult to talk. Do it with reassurance and encouragement. You might say something like, "Learning to talk is hard — lots of people get stuck on their words and that's OK. You're doing really well".
The most important lesson I learnt in speech therapy was to slow down my own speech.
Watch our video below called 'How you can help a child who stammers'.
Read our article on Nurturing resilience in children who stammer. It gives practical tips on helping a child to think and feel better about stammering.
Changing our language
When talking with your child or with others about stammering, try not to describe it as 'good' and 'bad'. For example, "Your speech has been really good today" or "Her stammering's been really bad this week". Language like this can make a child feel that the way they're talking is wrong. Or that they're being bad or are failing in some way when they stammer. This can chip away at their confidence. It could make them anxious about speaking or make other anxieties worse.
Instead, describe changes in stammering as 'more' or 'less'. For example, "She's been stammering more this week", or "He's been stammering less today". This gives you a way to talk about changes in your child's stammer without any judgement.
Watch more videos below:
Talking to a child who stammers
Becoming more comfortable with your child's stammering
One-to-one time with your child who stammers
How to talk about stammering
Watch the video 'My Stammering Child'. It explores the concerns you might have when your child starts stammering. It was made by Humber Teaching NHS Foundation Trust, My Pocket Films and Action for Stammering Children.
Read a great article from Jessica, parent of a 4-year-old boy: 'Supporting myself as the parent of a child who stammers'.
Our online groups & workshops
We run Zoom support groups for parents called 'Parent2Parent: Pull Up a Chair. Here you can meet and chat to other parents and share experiences and tips.
Getting extra support
Have you tried the strategies above and you're still worried? Would you like some extra help? You could get an appointment with a speech & language therapist. See Options For Children & Teenagers for details on how to do this.
Books to read with children
There are several children’s books which talk about stammering. Read our reviews of the following books:
- 'Do Animals Stammer?' by Arthur Minella
- 'How To Be More Hedgehog' by Anne-Marie Conway
- 'The Boy Who Made Everyone Laugh' by Helen Rutter
- 'I Talk Like A River' by Jordan Scott
- 'Little Big' by Hassan Aly
- 'The Stuttering Coach' by Martin Scott
IF YOU HAVE A TEENAGER WHO STAMMERS
We know that adolescence can be a difficult time for young people who stammer. They may want to be more independent. They might feel extra pressure at school or with exams and start to worry more about friendships. Anxious thoughts and feelings about stammering may mean they avoid situations they are worried about.
Teenagers who stammer know that they sound different to their peers. They may well have read information themselves about stammering on the internet. Some may also have been to speech & language therapy when they were younger. Or they might be having therapy now.
It can be hard for teenagers to talk about topics that worry them. Be patient and create a safe space for them to talk. Let them know it is OK for them to share their worries and thoughts with you. Talk openly with them about stammering and let them know that they are not alone. Reinforce that stammering is not a limitation, nor is it something to be ashamed of. You could show them our page of Influential People Who Stammer or our Your Voice section. It’s packed full of articles by people getting on in their careers with their stammer. Or watch videos from ‘Stambassadors': successful people talking about their stammers.
If your child is in further or higher education, download our 'Reasonable adjustments for students' guide below in the Downloads section. It explains how they can ask for changes at their college or university to make things easier for them.
Parent & teen support group
Don't forget to get support for yourself if you need it. At STAMMA we run a regular parent-led support group for parents of secondary school children who stammer. See our Events section for meetings or email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Other sources of support
Download one of our information leaflets below. Or you can order them from our Shop for free.
UK Peer to Peer Support Group for Parents of Children who Stammer. A Facebook group for parents to support each other and share experiences, thoughts and ideas. It's a closed group so only members can post and respond.
The STAMMA 'Space For Stammering' Facebook group. This provides a space to share experiences, ask for advice and talk openly about stammering. Lots of parents are members. The group is moderated by STAMMA staff and volunteers.
Action for Stammering Children. An informative website on stammering with a focus on children and young people.