Information and FAQs about Stuttering for Kids

(also available in Estonian Translation by Johanne Teerink

Information about Stuttering

Some Information about Stuttering For Kids from Kidsource.
Tammy Bryant-McMillin is a speech therapist. She has put online a fun activity: Stuttering Awareness Game that you can use to learn a lot of interesting information about stuttering.
Information for Kids from The Stuttering Foundation

Frequently Asked Questions - From and By Kids

These are some questions kids who stutter ask a lot - or get asked a lot. Maybe you would like to send in some other questions that we can use to make a FAQ - that is a place where questions that get asked a lot, get answered. It stands for Frequently Asked Questions. Below are some questions kids who stutter ask a lot - or get asked a lot.

How many people stutter?

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What is stuttering?

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What causes stuttering?

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What makes you stutter?

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When do people start to stutter?

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Is it true that "sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me?"

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Why do some people tease all the time?

Who are some famous people who stutter?

What should I do when people tease me?

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What are some other things I can do that might help stop people from teasing:

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What are some ways I can help other people learn more about stuttering?

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Why do I stutter sometimes and not at other times?

    We really don't know why that happens, but it seems that everyone who stutters does this. There are some theories that make sense. One is that people get the idea very, very quickly that they will stutter in some situations. For instance, if you have a really bad stuttering block while you are in the lunch line, that might plant the idea deep down in your mind that you will stutter when you have to stand in line. So a couple days later you are standing in line to buy a movie ticket and --wham! -- you start stuttering!

    Another theory is that being "excited" can make you stutter because extra energy from other parts of your brain spills over into the part that controls speech. The excitement can be either good excitement such as going to a party or bad excitement such as being teased or scolded, but the effect is pretty much the same.

    You might talk to your speech teacher about doing a real scientific experiment. Keep a stuttering diary for a few weeks and see if you can figure out what kinds of things seem to make you stutter more and what kinds make you stutter less. Don't just look at the big, obvious things such as "being in school" or "going to the beach." Try to be very specific. Do you stutter more when you ask questions or when you answer them? Do you stutter more in math or in English class? In the post office or in the drug store? With men teachers or with women teachers? Figure out your own places and situations to compare. This kind of project can tell you a lot about your own stuttering. If you can figure out just what kinds of things tend to make you feel stuttery, you will have a useful tool for managing your speech.

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Why do some people make me stutter?

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How do you remember to use good speech in school, do you have any tips?

    That's a hard one! If you haven't used good speech for very long, it will be really difficult to remember to do it when you have to ask or answer a question, read, or give a presentation. Instead of concentrating on the times you forget to use good speech, set yourself a goal of using good speech once a day for a week, then twice a day for a week, then three times, and so forth. Congratulate yourself for meeting your goal, don't be hard on yourself for not using good speech at the other times. By the end of the school year, you will be using good speech all day!

    Think about how you feel when you have to speak in class. Do you feel rushed? Do you feel like people are staring at you, or that the teacher wants you to hurry up and get on with it? If you do feel like this, you should talk to your parents, teacher or speech teacher, and together you can figure out ways to lighten up the pressure a little. Otherwise, just expect that sometimes you will forget to use good speech. That's really OK. As long as you don't get discouraged, you will eventually learn to use good speech without really thinking about it too much. But it can take a long time to learn to do that.

    Here's something else that you can do secretly for yourself. Next time you have question-and-answer time or oral reports in class, mark down on a piece of paper the number of times the other kids have to stop and start again, make a speech mistake, repeat a word or a syllable, or goof up some other way. I bet you'll be surprised! You might want to talk about that tally with your speech teacher. You see, everyone screws up speaking sometimes, so stuttering now and then really should not be that much of a problem.

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When was the first incidence of stuttering reported?

    Nobody knows that for sure. Stuttering is found in every language and every country in the world, and evidence of stuttering is found in several very old documents. There is even an example of a speech problem in Egyptian symbols called hieroglyphics. As you can see, the picture shows a person trying to speak but the speaking gets blocked by what looks like walls. Maybe this symbol was showing stuttering.
    (From Faulkner (1991) A Concise Dictionary of Middle Egyptian)

    One of the first stutterers we know about may have been Moses, who told God that he couldn't lead the Israelites because he was "slow of speech." He got permission from God to let his brother Aaron do the talking for him at first! Another early example was the Greek orator Demosthenes (pronounced "de-MOS-the-neez"). He made himself into a strong speaker by running with stones tied to his chest (a kind of early weight training) and by practicing speaking with a mouth full of pebbles. You can read about both of these early stutterers on the Stuttering Homepage, in the "Famous People who Stutter" section.

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Do you stutter in space if your muscles are shifting around?

    Wow, Ben and Walter. That question is out of this world, for sure!

    If a person stutters on the ground, he or she probably would stutter in space, too. . The reason is that the muscles that "shift around" in space are mostly the larger, slower muscles that hold a person upright - like the muscles in your legs, sides, and back. In space, without gravity, they don't have much to do so they get weak.

    But, hands and faces have small, fast-moving muscles that work all the time, even in space. And the face muscles don't really work against gravity the way the leg and body muscles do.. They work mostly against each other, so I don't think that the lack of gravity would affect stuttering much, if at all.

    On the other hand, you probably know that any big change can affect how much a person stutters. An astronaut might be so excited at being in space that he or she might become pretty dysfluent for a while. It is more likely, though, that any astronauts who stutter would be so busy with experiments and work on the space craft that they would not have time to worry about whether they stuttered or not -- and that could even make them stutter less.

    Either way, since stuttering has just about nothing to do with the things that astronauts do, it would be no reason at all to keep someone from becoming an astronaut. Why don't you two design an experiment and propose it to NASA? I think it would be very interesting as well as good science to analyze the cockpit and cabin tapes from the shuttle for evidence of stuttering or other speech problems that might be affected by the lack of gravity in space.

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My question is can you ever stop stuttering?

    Hi James. I'm glad you wrote. The answer is, it really depends. Some people apparently do stop stuttering, usually after a whole lot of speech therapy. Some stutter a lot all their lives, though. Most fall somewhere in between. That is, their stuttering diminishes, but it's still there. It just isn't very important any more. Most of the time people don't pay any attention to it.

    The best way to make stuttering diminish is to be open and honest about it, and eventually to learn not to care whether you stutter or not. That can be very difficult to do but it's worth making the effort to learn how. The people whose stuttering stops (or gets so mild that nobody notices) are often the people who can grin and say, "Sure I stutter, but it doesn't matter!" Instead of worrying about stuttering and trying to hide it, they learn to communicate very well. They say what they want to say, when they want to say it, and they don't let anyone stop them.

    If you learn to accept and be proud of yourself whether you stutter or not, the chances are that stuttering will not matter once you are grown up. But if you always worry about trying not to stutter, then stuttering will probably be a problem all your life.

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I am 14 going to be 15. Here is my question: How do I get kids to stop teasing me about my stuttering and make them realize that it is ok to stutter.

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Hi, I am in 5th grade and stutter. My godmother told my mom about a cure. It is said to work for 80-90% of the people who try it. You have to read with your teeth clenched (together) for a certain amount of time each day. Can this cure my stuttering?

    Your godmother probably saw this "cure" for stuttering in an Ann Landers or Dear Abby column not too long ago. Although I know that your godmother was trying to be helpful, it is not a cure for stuttering. It is something like what is called "an old wive's tale." Have you ever heard that expression? There are old wive's tales about lots of things. I remember my grandmother told me I could get rid of the warts on my hands by burying a dishrag under the back porch when the moon was full - or something like that. The best advice I have for you and your mom is to talk to a speech therapist (you are perhaps already working with one - I hope so).

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What is the origin of the word stuttering

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Where can I learn some more about stuttering?

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When I start to stutter I use a short word like "um or something then I say the word that I stuttered on again so It sounds normal. Is this a good idea?

    That trick is one that a lot of other people have tried. The bad part about tricks like that is that it sometimes works for a little while. Then it sometimes stops working. But you have learned to say "um" in front of some words and it becomes a new part of your stuttering. When that happens, some people try another "trick" - maybe blinking their eyes, or bobbing their head, or breathing funny, or something. That will work for a little while, too, although you are still also saying "um" in front of the word you are trying to say. Then the next trick doesn't work either. These tricks can keep adding to the problem. The problem just keeps growing. And then someday, the biggest problem is not the little bobble or repetition you had on a word, it is all the ums, and other things you have added to try to keep from doing the bobble in the first place. Please talk to your speech therapist about this.
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Why do more boys who stutter than girls who stutter?

    Some people believe that when boys and girls are just starting to "stutter," there are about as many boys as girls who have stuttering in their speech. Then, for some reason, more of the girls seem to stop the stuttering. But many of the boys will also stop the stuttering. We aren't sure why more girls seem to get over stuttering than boys. It may be that there are some differences between boys' and girls' language and speech abilities when they are learning to talk. It may be that people expect different things from boys than they do from girls (like some girls are quieter in school than some boys. Maybe when they are quieter, they don't have as many times to notice and get upset by any stutters and as parts of their brain mature, their speech and language improves to a point where the "stutters" in their speech just disappear). It may be something that researchers haven't even thought of yet! Some day maybe you can research this question! When you do research this question, you will discover the same 4:1 (boys to girls) ratio in some other areas, too! When people do research, the first thing they have to do is come up with a good question like you did!
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I take 7th grade choir and I am just curious to know why I don't stutter when I sing?

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How do people talk? from E. Charles Healey, Ph.D.

    Talking is something we do a lot during any day. Being able to say what we want seems simple and doesn't take a lot of work or thought. But, in order to speak well enough for people to understand us and hear what we have to say takes the control of air from our lungs, voice, tongue and lip movements. So, the three main parts of our body that we use for talking are our lungs (for the air supply), our vocal folds, (to make vocal sounds), and our tongue, lips and jaw, (to shape speech sounds).

    Lungs (respiration)
    First, the lungs provide the air needed to turn the voice on and to make sounds in the mouth. Air comes out of he lungs wen we talk and is the first thing that needs to happen to talk correctly. Try to turn your voice on while holding your breath. You can't do it because the air is blocked by the voice. Now, let the air come out of your lungs, say, "ah" and feel your voice buzz by placing your fingers on your neck over the voice box. The air coming out of your lungs makes the voice buzz or vibrate. You can also let air come out of your lungs and make sounds like the /s/ or /sh/ with your voice turned off. Sometimes, people don't take enough air into their lungs before they start talking. If this happens, the person will need to push hard to get the air to come out and that causes the voice box to tense up and not buzz easily. So to talk well, we need to get a good full flow of air out of our lungs before and during the time we talk.

    Vocal Folds (phonation)
    The second system important for speech is the voice. As we have said, air from the lungs helps cause the voice to buzz or vibrate But, for this to happen, we need to keep the muscles of the voice relaxed. If we try to start our voice when our vocal muscles are tight and tense, the voice may not vibrate or it will turn on suddenly, with force. If you have a hard time turning voice on or keeping it on, it probably means that your vocal muscles are too stiff and tense.

    Tongue, Lips and Jaw (articulation)
    The third part of the speech system is the mouth and is made up of the tongue, lips and jaw. When we make movements and contacts with these parts of our mouth, they form different speech sounds. Make /t/ sound for the word "time" and feel your tongue touch the roof of your mouth behind your front teeth. Note too that your air and voice turn off during the /t/ sound but turn on to finish the rest of the sounds in the word. Other sounds like /s/, /sh/, k/, /p/ and /f/ are made with some stoppage of the air or the air has to go through a tiny opening in the mouth. Feel the air hit your hand when you make a /f/ sound. Now, make a /v/ sound and feel the difference in the amount of air that hits your hand. Less air hits your hand on /v/ because the voice is turned on. Remember the voice needs air to work too.

    Making sounds with our lips and tongue can be easy if we make the contacts light and smooth. But, sometimes the tension and tightness in the muscles of our lips, tongue or jaw make it hard to move from one sound to another. When this happens, it could make airflow and voicing hard too. So, keeping the lips, tongue, and jaw relaxed and moving freely will help to talk smoothly without a lot of effort. Talking easily isn't hard if you remember to keep your air and voice going and move the tongue, lips and jaw smoothly for one sound to another.

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last updated March 2, 2018