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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Stuttering in children

Kikikiki ki ngā tamariki

Girl with a stammer

Stuttering is an interruption to the flow of your speech that you cannot control. It is also called stammering.

Stuttering can happen in different ways, such as:

We do not know exactly what causes stuttering. We think it is caused by problems in the part of your brain that produces speech. It may also be partly genetic, as stuttering often runs in families.

Around 5 to 10% of preschool tamariki (children) will stutter. Stuttering usually develops when tamariki are between 2 and 4. But every tamaiti (child) goes through a period of "normal non-fluency". This can be mistaken for stuttering.

In normal non-fluency, tamariki who are learning to talk and starting to combine words into short sentences repeat whole words. For example, "and and..." or "because because..." While this can be worrying, it is different from stuttering.

If there is a family history of stuttering, seek the advice of a speech-language therapist. Also seek help if the non-fluency continues for more than three months.

Diagnosing stuttering in children

Only a qualified speech-language therapist or paediatrician can diagnose stuttering. There is no simple test your doctor can use.

Treating stuttering in children

Some tamariki recover naturally from stuttering. Several treatments are available for those who do not. Your speech-language therapist will choose the best one to meet your child's needs.

Helping your child with stuttering

There are several things you can do to help your tamaiti communicate clearly.

Getting help for stuttering in children

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed July 2023.


Page reference: 129665

Review key: HISCD-79694