Identifying and Helping a Child who stutters

Written by Stephen Groner, MS, CCC-SLP

Lancaster, PA. USA

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What is stuttering?

How do you tell if a child is more likely to continue to stutter or grow out of it?

He’s telling you about his “t-t-train” and his parents are looking at you with pained eyes. Well, there are 9 Big Risk Factors for persistent stuttering.

Risk Factors for Persistent Stuttering:

  1. Having a family history of stuttering (especially persistent stuttering).

  2. Being male.

  3. Having a later onset of stuttering after 3 and ½ years.

  4. Having one’s stuttering not start to decrease within twelve months.

  5. Stuttering for longer than one year.

  6. Exhibiting an average of more than 3 rapid repetitions.

  7. Exhibiting prolongations and/or blocks.

  8. Having poor articulation/phonological abilities. (For more information, click here.)

  9. Have a sensitive or inhibited temperament.


The more of these you have checked off, the more likely a child will continue to stutter.
So feel more confident in the treatment decisions you make if you have the data to back it up!

How can you help a young child who stutters? Use the Reduced Demands Technique!

Although we don’t often think about it, talking effortlessly in front of people can be pretty difficult, especially if your child stutters. That’s why it can be so powerful for children who stutter if the demands placed on them around speaking are dialed waaaaaay back. A lighter speaking burden leads to easier, more fluent speech.

Here’s how you can help a child who stutters:

  1. Have daily, one-on-one time alone with your child, just you and them.

  2. Let them take the lead on what gets played with and talked about and follow them there. Whatever they’re interested in is what you should be interested in.

  3. Don’t finish their sentences for them or guess what they’re trying to say, even though it may feel like you’re trying to help.

  4. Make more comments instead of asking questions so they don’t feel like they’re in the hot seat (for example, when talking about a knight, say “He’s climbing up the castle” [comment] instead of “What’s he doing now?” [question]).

  5. When you do ask a question, ask them “closed” questions, which can be answered with a single word or small fact, instead of “open” ones, which require more complicated language,
    For instance, instead of asking, “What did you do in school today?” which is pretty open-ended and complex to answer, you could ask, “Did you go to art class today?” and after that, “Did you like it?” Which require only a “yes” or “no” answer.

  6. Leave a brief pause between turns in the conversation. When they ask or say something, pause for one beat before you respond, to show them they have more time to talk.

  7. Every time they say something, no matter how it comes out, make them feel like what they’ve said is the most important and meaningful thing in the entire world to you in that moment. Focus on the message beneath the stuttering, not the stop-and-start method in which it’s conveyed.


This and everything else you need to treat stuttering like a BOSS is in my “Ultimate How to Treat Stuttering Package” on my website. Get it now and scan it before the school year starts!