Families of children who stutter have a number of common questions and concerns. This brochure has been put together to answer these as best we can.





  • First of all, you don't have to feel alone. There are people out there who can help you. Call our office to talk. We will be glad to put you in touch with professionals we know in your area who can guide you. We may be able to put you in touch with other parents, too.

  • If your child exhibits the kind of behavior we outlined in the first part of this brochure, your first step should be to seek a qualified and experienced speech pathologist with expertise in treating children who stutter.

  • We cannot urge you more strongly to seek this guidance EARLY ON. There is much evidence that early therapeutic intervention is the most effective. For preschool children there is every hope that, with early intervention and guidance, the child will recover from stuttering. On the other hand, stuttering in school age children can be much more resistant to change. It may be that the difficulty is one your child will outgrow, but it would be wrong to take a chance on that. The experienced professional can only help you and your child.

  • Many pediatricians will tell you, "Ignore it, it will go away." At one time, this was thought to be good advice. We know now it is very bad advice in cases where there is embarrassment or definite struggle behavior on the part of the child. Err on the side of caution and seek professional help if you have any doubts about your child being at risk for stuttering.

  • A professional can work with your child, and/or (especially if they are under 5 years of age) they can work with you, helping you create a constructive, fluency-enhancing environment for your child.

  • Under Public Law 94-142, stuttering is considered a disorder for which public schools are required to provide competent assistance to the child in the school setting or to pay for appropriate treatment elsewhere.

  • The NSP can possibly put you in touch with other parents who know what you are experiencing. And you can become a member of Aaron's Associates, an organization especially designed for children 11 and under and their loved ones. (See their address at the end of this brochure.)







    Dorvan Breitenfeldt, Ph.D., Eastern Washington University

    1. The goal is to keep the child's stuttering at its present level, prevent its further development, and keep the child talking.

    2. Don't let the child know you are upset about his speech.

    3. Keep your child healthy, getting adequate sleep and proper nutrition, and follow a general routine schedule.

    4. Look at your child when s/he speaks and show by your expression that you are interested in what s/he is saying, not how s/he is saying it.

    5. Refrain from teaching tricks (deep breaths, finger snapping, arm waving).

    6. Don't force the child to speak or recite to strangers. However, encourage the child to speak as often as s/he wants.

    7. Accept your child as s/he is; don't reject him/her or give him/her the impression of rejection.

    8. Don't let your child avoid normal responsibilities. Use the same discipline as with any other child.

    9. Don't supply words. Let your child get his/her words out himself. Don't interrupt.

    10. Look for emotional tension at home or school when stuttering is very bad.

    11. Praise your child when s/he speaks well; but this should not be taken as praise for not stuttering; praise what s/he says, not how s/he says it.

    12. Help your child develop constructive work and hobby activities. Give positive feedback and reinforcement.

    13. The child should not be required to hurry with speaking nor should you develop the attitude that s/he should.

    14. Model a relaxed manner of speech when talking to the child. Maintain a calm, reassuring, unhurried manner with slow speech.

    15. Avoid suggestions as: "Think before you speak." "Talk slower (or faster)." "Wait until you can say it." etc.

    16. Don't ask the child to substitute an easy word for a hard one as this will only increase the fear of certain words and phrases.

    17. Encourage speaking at home and in school.

    18. Nothing can ever take the place of love, understanding and patience when dealing with children, any children.

    Peter Ramig, Ph.D., of the University of Colorado in Boulder.
    1. Beginning at a very young age, associate talking with pleasant activities. Use a pleasant manner when speaking to the child. For example, while rocking or holding the child, talk about daily activities or events.

    2. Prompt spontaneous conversation on the part of the child by waiting silently for the child to initiate the conversation during free play.

    3. Help your child express his/her feelings both verbally and non-verbally by doing so yourself.

    4. Read to your child in a relaxed manner that is slightly slower than normal and has a natural rhythm.

    5. Don't ask your child to stop and start over when s/he stutters.

    6. Try to act the same way when your child stutters as when s/he is speaking fluently.

    7. Calmly acknowledge the occurrence of any long effortful or forceful disfluencies especially if your child indicates concern and/or awareness of these obvious disruptions. A simple statement like "That was hard for you, wasn't it?" can defuse some of the child's concern and show him/her that the same lapses do not upset you.

    8. Avoid using the word "stuttering" to describe your child's speech when talking to him/her or to someone else. Instead, use descriptive words-"gets stuck," "hard talking," "bumpy speech," etc. However, if the child is well aware of the disfluencies and refers to them as stuttering, it would be unnatural for everyone else to avoid using the word.

    9. Do not push your child to speak on days when s/he is extremely disfluent.

    10. After a disfluent utterance, you might repeat back the content of what the child said. This will help you make sure you are attending to the content of what is said, and help to reduce his/her memory of the disfluency. In addition, you are telling the child you are listening to him/her.

    11. Talk openly with your child about stuttering, if s/he expresses a desire to do so, but do not make a big issue out of it.

    12. Remember, a child develops his attitude about talking by observing his parents' behaviors. Take advantage of every opportunity to see that the child experiences some form of success and praise.

    13. Do not reward the child with sweets. Keep his/her intake of refined sugar at an absolute minimum. This includes closely monitoring his/her consumption of candy, soft drinks, bakery goods, etc.

    14. Traumatic events such as illness, accidents, and emotional conflicts, cannot be avoided. However, be aware that such events may be accompanied by more disfluency in your child's speech.

    15. Parents should intervene if brothers and/or sisters tease the disfluent child. Take the sibling(s) out of sight and sound of the disfluent child, and talk to them. Chances are that if the child's siblings are non-critical, the neighbors, friends and other relatives will treat the child's disfluencies the same way.

    16. When your child is experiencing a period of increased disfluency, try to provide him/her with successful speaking experiences. Encourage choral speaking, singing, recitation of nursery rhymes, etc.

    17. The parents should provide a good model by speaking calmly and reducing their rates. This is more effective than telling the child to slow down.

    18. Give your full attention to the child when you listen to him or her.

    19. Be careful not to convey a sense of time pressure. Modeling good slow speech will help here. "Brisk" turn taking and frequent interruptions can convey a sense of time pressure and should be minimized.

    20. When the child is experiencing a period of increases nonfluency, try to provide him/her with successful speaking experiences. Encourage choral speaking, singing, recitation of nursery rhymes, rhythmic speaking using puppets, etc.

    21. Promote spontaneous conversation on the part on the part of the child by waiting silently for the child to initiate the conversation during free play. Reinforce the child's responses with smiles and praise by touching.

    22. Provide a variety of entertaining language experiences, such as trips to the zoo, amusement park, museums, etc. Talk about each experience with the child.

    23. Parents should try to remove the stigma attached to stuttering which the child may be experiencing. One way to do this is by occasionally modeling unforced stuttering behaviors so the child begins to realize everyone is disfluent sometimes, and that it can be done easily and without tension.

    24. Nonfluencies are the result of many factors over which children and adults have little or no control. Therefore, no one is to blame for the disfluencies.

    25. Children who stutter are no different from other children except that they have trouble getting words out. Your child is not to be considered maladjusted or traumatized in some way just because s/he stutters.

    26. There is nothing "wrong" or "bad" about stuttering.

    27. Stuttering is a complex problem that usually requires help to solve it. We encourage seeking the help of a certified speech-language pathologist with expertise in stuttering.

    28. Stuttering is one problem which there is help and a great deal of hope for. It can be overcome.

    Things to Do

    For more advice and for a possible referral to an experienced speech-language pathologist contact the National Stuttering Project.

    Become a member of the NSP, a non-profit organization in need of your financial support. You'll love the monthly newsletter, Letting Go.

    The Stuttering Foundation of America also has a number of great books at very reasonable prices. Among these are: "If Your Child Stutters: A Guide for Parents ; "Treating the School-Age Stutterer ; "Do You Stutter: A Guide for Teens". Order from the Stuttering Foundation of America: P.O. Box 11749, Memphis, TN 38111 (or call 1-800-992-9392).

    EXAMPLES OF BOOKS AND TAPES FROM THE NATIONAL STUTTERING PROJECT "ADVICE TO PARENTS BY SEVEN EXPERTS ON STUTTERING" -- 90 minute cassette tape. -- Seven experts on childhood stuttering offer practical advice to parents. Includes practical tips on when a child should be brought in to therapy and provides insights on what such a program entails.

    "STUTTERING PREVENTION: A CLINICAL MANUAL" -- This excellent pamphlet is written by Woody Starkweather, Ph.D., of Temple University. The pamphlet further develops ideas contained in the guide you are now reading. (This is also available on the Stuttering Home Page, here

    "A PERSONAL MESSAGE FOR TEENAGERS" -- National Stuttering Project Executive Director John Ahlbach talks heart-to-heart in this 50-minute videotape designed for teenage viewers. .

    "LOST BOYS NEVER SAY DIE" -- Readers age 10 and up will enjoy this wonderful story about the troubles and ultimate triumph of an 11-year- old boy who stutters.

    Additional information and order forms available at the NSP Bookstore

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