What is stammering? Stammering is a communication disorder in which the flow of speech is broken by repetitions (li-li-like this), prolongations (lllllike this), or abnormal stoppages (no sound) of sounds and syllables. There may also be unusual facial and body movements associated with the effort to speak.

What causes stammering? There are four factors most likely to contribute to the development of stammering: genetics (approximately 60% of those who stammer have a family member who does also); child development (children with other speech and language problems or developmental delays are more likely to stammer); neurophysiology (recent neurological research has shown that people who stammer process speech and language slightly differently than those who do not stammer); and family dynamics (high expectations and fast-paced lifestyles can contribute to stammering). Stammering may occur when a combination of factors comes together and may have different causes in different people. It is probable that what causes stammering differs from what makes it continue or get worse.

How many people stammer? More than 70 million people worldwide stammer, which is about 1% of the population. In the United States, that's over 3 million Americans who stammer.

How many children stammer? Approximately 5 percent of all children go through a period of stammering that lasts six months or more. Three-quarters of those will recover by late childhood, leaving about 1% with a long-term problem. The best prevention tool is early intervention.

I think my child is beginning to stammer. Should I wait or seek help? It is best to seek ways that you, the parents, can help as soon as possible. (click on If You Think Your Child is Stammering for ways to help immediately) If the stammering persists beyond three to six months or is particularly severe, you may want to seek help from a speech-language pathologist who specializes in stammering right away. (click on speech-language pathologists for listings by state or country.)

Can stammering be treated? Yes, there are a variety of successful approaches for treating both children and adults (click on Why Speech Therapy? for some guidelines). In general, the earlier, the better is good advice.

These stammering facts and stammering information are provided by the Stuttering Foundation of America.