How to recognize stuttering

Stuttering affects speech fluency. The person experiences involuntary and unexpected physical interruptions in their speech movements as they attempt to communicate. Physical struggle occurs when the person tries to speak without stuttering, and is further fuelled by the negative thoughts and feelings that result from it.

Stuttering behaviours are different from the normal disfluency that everyone experiences from time to time. Normal disfluency does not capture the attention of listeners unless it is excessive and/or interferes with communication. Normal disfluency is usually related to thinking, finding the right word, or realizing that something can be said in a better way, for example. Stuttering, on the other hand, is noticed by listeners because it is different from what is more typical. There may be associated pressure or urgency, and speech rhythm may be affected. Stutters can be brief or last for seconds. 

The following presents one way to think of speech behaviours that could be perceived by listeners as stuttering. A person who stutters might: 

  • Repeat a syllable, part of a syllable or a combination of syllables multiple times 
    • what-what-what
    • ca-ca-ca-ca-can
    • t-t-t-take
    • then it- then it- then it- then it went up
  • Elongate or prolong a speech sound (the mouth, jaw and lips stop moving while making the sound)
    • lllllook 
    • whaaaat
  • Get stuck or block (the mouth, jaw and lips stop moving and there is no airflow)
    • --- and
    • My name is ----- Kent.
  • Experience a combination of the above

Stuttering happens on consonants, vowels, or syllables, mostly at the beginning of words. It commonly occurs at the beginning of sentences or following a pause. As stuttering develops, however, it can show up on any word in a sentence, and on any syllable in longer words.

Stuttering sometimes happens in clusters, meaning that several moments of stuttering follow each other within the same sentence or within a short period of time.

Last updated: January 3, 2022