Ten Tips for communicating with a child who stammers

Many people aren’t sure how to react when communicating with a child who stammers and whether they should try to ‘help them out.’  Here are some useful tips:

Boy child sitting
  1. When talking about a child who stutters, use the term "person who stutters" rather than "stutterer."  Stuttering is something the child does, it is not who they are.

  2. Resist the temptation to finish sentences or provide missing words.

  3. Try not to look embarrassed when a child stutters on a word, keep your body language relaxed and keep eye contact with the child.

  4. Be patient and allow the child to finish speaking.

  5. Avoid asking the child to relax, slow down or take a breath as this doesn’t really help.

  6. Use a slightly slower pace when you are speaking, and allow the conversation to flow in a relaxed way.

  7. Ask fewer questions, and instead try to acknowledge that you are listening by making comments throughout the conversation.  Fluency often improves when the child can express his or her thoughts uninterrupted.

  8. Realise that people who stutter often have difficulty in speaking on the telephone. Saying hello might take them a while.  Be patient when answering the phone.

  9. In family or group situations, try to ensure that everyone takes turns listening and speaking.  Children who stutter find it easier to communicate without the distraction of others talking.

  10.  Don't be afraid to say if you haven’t understood something the child says.  This shows them that you are interested in knowing what they said, instead of pretending or guessing.

For advice and support please visit the British Stammering Association website.

Lizz Summers

Voice & Presentation Skills Coach