Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Brain & Nervous System Health Center

Font Size

Stuttering - Topic Overview

What is stuttering?

Stuttering is a speech problem in which people may repeat, draw out, not complete, or skip words or sounds without meaning to. The problem can range from mild to severe.

Stuttering is normal in young children around ages 2 through 7 years. Stuttering that starts during a child's early language-learning years and goes away on its own sometime before puberty is called normal disfluency. It is a normal part of language development.

Stuttering that lasts or gets worse over time is called developmental stuttering. It can be embarrassing and hard to deal with. This type of stuttering probably won't get better without treatment.

What causes stuttering?

Stuttering happens when the brain is not able to send and receive messages in the normal way. Doctors don't know why this happens.

Stuttering may run in the family. It may be triggered by things like stress or a developmental delay.

In rare cases, stuttering may be caused by brain damage, such as after a head injury or stroke.

What are the symptoms?

People who stutter may:

  • Repeat sounds, parts of words, and sometimes entire words.
  • Pause between words or within a word.
  • Choose simple words instead of those that are harder to speak.
  • Show tension or discomfort while talking.
  • Use only parts of phrases.
  • Add "uh" or "um" in the middle of a sentence.
  • Add words or phrases that are not related.

Stuttering often gets worse at stressful times, such as during public speaking. It often does not occur during other activities, such as singing, whispering, talking while alone or to pets, or reading aloud with a group.

How is stuttering diagnosed?

A speech-language pathologist can usually diagnose stuttering by having the child read aloud. The pathologist may videotape or record the child talking or may check speech patterns in other ways.

Doctors may do a physical exam to rule out other health problems, such as hearing problems, which can affect speech development.

If you are an adult who has started to stutter, see your doctor. Stuttering that starts in an adult is most often linked to an injury, a health problem, or severe emotional trauma. To diagnose the problem, the doctor will do a physical exam, ask you some questions, and watch and listen to you speak.

How is it treated?

When it begins in early childhood, stuttering tends to go away on its own. Even if the speech problem is not expected to last long, treatment can help. Treatment often includes speech therapy for the child and counseling for the parents.

Parent counseling teaches parents and other caregivers about how speech develops. You learn how to relate to your child in a positive way. It also shows you how to help your child at home by using proper eye contact and body language when your child is trying to talk to you.


WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: August 13, 2010
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

3d scan of fractured skull
human brain waves
brain maze
senior man
brain research briefing
graphic of human head
mans hands on laptop keyboard
brain illustration stroke
most common stroke symptoms
Parkinsons Disease Medications