Did you know?

Stuttering is much more common than people think. It is likely that you know someone who stutters, or stuttered as a child. Read more facts about stuttering below – and if you have any unanswered questions, feel free to get in touch with us.

How common is stuttering?

More common than people think. Approximately 1% of the general population stutters, that works out to about 45,000 people in New Zealand. The ratio of males to females who stutter is approximately 4:1.

What is stuttering?

Stuttering is an involuntary interruption to the flow of talking. This can occur in different ways:

  • Repeating sounds or syllables, e.g. “B b b but it’s my turn”
  • Repeating words, e.g. “Can can can I be next?”
  • Prolongations (or stretching sounds) “That fffffffish is swimming”
  • Blocks “I…….I like vanilla”

The severity and type of stuttering may vary in different situations and from person to person. Interruptions to the flow of speech may be accompanied by signs of tension and struggle, as well as fear, embarrassment, and anxiety. In some cases, stuttering can dominate a person’s view of themselves and their social and work relationships.

What causes stuttering?

We do not know exactly what causes stuttering. Stuttering is thought to be a physical disorder, most likely resulting from a problem in the neural processing area involved in speech production. It also appears that a genetic pre-disposition may be involved, as stuttering often runs in families. People who stutter are not different from the general population in terms of their intelligence and stuttering is present in all cultures and languages. There is no evidence to suggest that stuttering is caused by an emotional disorder, a traumatic event, parenting style, or copying someone who stutters.

Is there a cure for stuttering?

There is no known ‘cure’ for stuttering. There are a variety of effective therapy available for children and adults who stutter but there is no ‘magic pill’ or cure for stuttering. The best results are achieved when the stuttering is treated early in childhood, preferably before the child starts school. We cover more on this topic in detail in our article here.

When does stuttering begin?

Stuttering usually begins between 2 and 4 years of age. In many cases, stuttering will emerge when children begin to put words together in short sentences. The onset of stuttering may be gradual or sudden with some children going to bed speaking fluently and waking the next morning stuttering quite severely. The severity of stuttering will vary from child to child, however typically children will begin stuttering by repeating words such as “I, I, I like that one” or “Can, can, can I have a drink?”. Over time the stuttering may change and begin to include prolongations and blocks. Some children will also display signs of tension and struggle. Some may react to stuttering with statements such as “Mummy, I can’t talk” or gestures of frustration, e.g. foot stomping. Others will go on speaking, seemingly unconcerned.

Does stuttering ever disappear on its own?

Yes, many children recover naturally from stuttering. It appears that more girls recover than boys and the highest chance of recovery is in the first six to twelve months. However, the best way to know if your child will lose their stutter naturally, or whether they require treatment, is to speak to a specialist who will assess your child individually.

Why does stuttering get worse when I’m nervous?

Emotions don’t cause stuttering, but they can make it worse. Talking can be compared to other physical skills, like driving a car. These activities take a certain amount of co-ordination and concentration, but the skill is largely automatic and almost subconscious. The same is true for speech. When someone who stutters (and therefore has a less efficient speech system to start with) feels nervous or excited, it is even harder for speech to flow smoothly.

Why can I sing without stuttering, but not talk?

This is a common phenomenon. People who stutter will be able to sing without stuttering. We are not exactly sure why this is the case but a different part of the brain is activated when we sing. Stuttering can also disappear when a person puts on an accent. Maybe that’s why you’ve never noticed that some pretty famous people like Emily Blunt, James Earl Jones, Harvey Keitel and Megan Washington stutter. If you’d like to know more on this topic, we cover it all in detail in our article here.

How do I support someone who stutters?

Be patient and appear unhurried. Show interest in what is being said rather than how it is being said. Keep normal eye contact while the person who stutters is speaking. In general it is better not to finish their words and sentences for them as this can be very frustrating. If you’d like more information on how to help someone who stutters, you can read our article here.

Does bilingualism or second language learning have an impact on stuttering?

Being bilingual does not cause stuttering. Lots of children learn two languages and do not stutter. For some children, learning two languages at once can be difficult to manage and may impact on their fluency development.

Is stuttering different to stammering?

No, stuttering and stammering mean the same thing. “Stammering” is the word often used in Britain; “stuttering” is commonly used in New Zealand, Australia and America. We cover more on this topic in our article here.