29 2024 Apr
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Stuttering is a speech condition that disrupts the normal flow of speech. Fluency means having an easy and smooth flow and rhythm when speaking. With stuttering, the interruptions in flow happen often and cause problems for the speaker. Other names for stuttering are stammering and childhood-onset fluency disorder.

Stuttering is common among young children as a usual part of learning to speak. Some young children may stutter when their speech and language abilities aren't developed enough to keep up with what they want to say. Most children outgrow this type of stuttering, called developmental stuttering.

But sometimes stuttering is a long-term condition that remains into adulthood. This type of stuttering can affect self-esteem and communicating with other people.

Children and adults who stutter may be helped by treatments such as speech therapy, electronic devices to improve speech fluency or a form of mental health therapy called cognitive behavioral therapy.


Stuttering symptoms may include:

  • Having a hard time starting a word, phrase or sentence.
  • Stretching out a word or sounds within a word.
  • Repeating a sound, syllable or word.
  • Brief silence for certain syllables or words, or pausing before or within a word.
  • Adding extra words such as "um" if expecting to have problems moving to the next word.
  • A lot of tension, tightness or movement of the face or upper body when saying a word.
  • Anxiety about talking.
  • Not being able to communicate well with others.

These actions may happen when stuttering:

  • Rapid eye blinks.
  • Trembling of the lips or jaw.
  • Unusual face movements, sometimes called facial tics.
  • Head nodding.
  • Tightening of fists.

Stuttering may be worse when the person is excited, tired or under stress, or when feeling self-conscious, hurried or pressured. Situations such as speaking in front of a group or talking on the phone can be especially hard for people who stutter.

But most people who stutter can speak without stuttering when they talk to themselves and when they sing or speak along with someone else.

When to see a doctor or speech-language pathologist

It's common for children between the ages of 2 and 5 years to go through periods when they may stutter. For most children, this is part of learning to speak, and it gets better on its own. But stuttering that continues may need treatment to improve speech fluency.

Call your healthcare professional for a referral to a specialist in speech and language called a speech-language pathologist. Or you can contact the speech-language pathologist directly for an appointment.

Ask for help if stuttering:

  • Lasts more than six months.
  • Happens along with other speech or language problems.
  • Happens more often or continues as the child grows older.
  • Includes muscle tightening or physically struggling when trying to speak.
  • Affects the ability to effectively communicate at school or work or in social situations.
  • Causes anxiety or emotional problems, such as fear of or not taking part in situations that require speaking.
  • Begins as an adult


Researchers continue to study the underlying causes of developmental stuttering. A combination of factors may be involved.

Developmental stuttering

Stuttering that happens in children while they're learning to speak is called developmental stuttering. Possible causes of developmental stuttering include:

Problems with speech motor control. Some evidence shows that problems in speech motor control, such as timing, sensory and motor coordination, may be involved.

Genetics. Stuttering tends to run in families. It appears that stuttering can happen from changes in genes passed down from parents to children.

Stuttering that happens from other causes

Speech fluency can be disrupted from causes other than developmental stuttering.

  • Neurogenic stuttering. A stroke, traumatic brain injury or other brain disorders can cause speech that is slow or has pauses or repeated sounds.
  • Emotional distress. Speech fluency can be disrupted during times of emotional distress. Speakers who usually do not stutter may experience problems with fluency when they are nervous or feel pressured. These situations also may cause speakers who stutter to have greater problems with fluency.
  • Psychogenic stuttering. Speech difficulties that appear after an emotional trauma are uncommon and not the same as developmental stuttering.

Risk factors

Males are much more likely to stutter than females are. Things that raise the risk of stuttering include:

  • Having a childhood developmental condition. Children who have developmental conditions, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, autism or developmental delays, may be more likely to stutter. This is true for children with other speech problems too.
  • Having relatives who stutter. Stuttering tends to run in families.
  • Stress. Stress in the family and other types of stress or pressure can worsen existing stuttering.


  • Stuttering can lead to:
  • Problems communicating with others.
  • Not speaking or staying away from situations that require speaking.
  • Not taking part in social, school or work activities and opportunities for success.
  • Being bullied or teased.
  • Low self-esteem.