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Key points to remember

  • stuttering is when people seem to get stuck on, or repeat, sounds when talking
  • stuttering is different for each child
  • stuttering may also be called ‘stammering’ or ‘dysfluency’

What is stuttering?

Stuttering is when people seem to get stuck on, or repeat, sounds when talking. Stuttering may also be called ‘stammering’ or ‘dysfluency’. 

Some common features that you might notice when children stutter

  • they repeat a sound ("p-p-p-please"), a syllable ("to-to-to-tomorrow") or a word ("my-my-my-my name is")

  • they stretch out a sound; for example, “ssssss- sometimes”

  • they get completely stuck at the start of a word, and no sound comes out.

Stuttering is different for each child. It can vary depending on the situation, such as what the child wants to say, who they are talking to and how they are feeling. Stuttering can start gradually or suddenly and may change over time.

Sometimes, a child may try to hide stuttering by avoiding talking.

Who stutters?

Stuttering can affect people of all ages and cultures. Many children stutter at some point as they learn to talk. Stuttering is more common in boys than girls and can run in families.


  • show your child that you are interested in what they say, not how they say it. Maintain natural eye contact and don’t ask them to say words again

  • let them finish their sentences rather than finishing them for them

  • be supportive if your child gets upset about their speech. You could say, "Talking is tricky sometimes when you’re still learning"


The content on this page has been produced in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and adapted from Much more than words | Manuka takoto, kawea ake (2014).

This page last reviewed 30 April 2015
© Paediatric Society of New Zealand and Starship Foundation 2005 – 2015
Printed on 28 November 2015. Content is regularly updated so please refer to for the most up-to-date version
Content endorsed by the Paediatric Society of New Zealand