Explaining Stuttering

Children are often very curious and may ask why they stutter. It can be difficult to know how to respond to a question like this because we may worry that we will say the wrong thing. However, we find that many children feel a sense of relief when an adult takes this question seriously, is honest with them about what is happening when they talk, and explains why they talk differently from others.

The information below is taken from the Stuttering Foundation's book for children, Sometimes I Just Stutter. If a child asks you why he stutters, the words here are written in such a way that might be helpful to you as you answer his question.

What makes you stutter?

All people are different. They do some things well and others not so well. Some children can run very fast; others are not so fast. Some children are good at doing addition or at drawing pictures. Other children find that difficult.

Let's take drawing as an example. To draw well, the muscles of your arm, your hand, and your fingers must work together easily. When you have a hard time drawing a picture, getting all those muscles working together is difficult for you; it is kind of a weak point of yours. It is no big deal--you must need more time to make a good drawing. If you try to do it quickly, there is a bigger chance the picture will not come out well.

But when you are in a hurry and want to say something quickly, or when you feel nervous, talking may get harder, and you may start to stutter. And if you are afraid stuttering is wrong and you try hard NOT to stutter, talking will become even more difficult. Then you may shut your eyes, or press hard, or make a face to say what you want. Children who are very afraid of stuttering may avoid talking altogether. They don't pick up the phone, finish their sentences, or they may try to find words that come out more easily. That isn't any fun. So it's much better to just let the stuttering happen and not try to stop it or hide it. You will feel less nervous, and the calmer you are, the easier the talking will be.