Know someone who stutters?

September 19, 2014 by Natacha Beausoleil


Stuttering is a speech disorder that appears between the ages of two and four. It presents as the blocking, repetition, and prolongation of sounds, syllables and words. There may also be some muscle tension and associated movements (blinking, fist clenching or foot tapping, for example).

Approximately 5% of children stutter. Of those children, 6 to 8 out of 10 stop stuttering without any treatment, experiencing “spontaneous recovery.” One percent of the adult population has a persistent stutter, and men are four times more likely than women to be affected.


The exact causes of stuttering are not yet known. Differences in cognitive function and genetics appear to play an important role. Other factors such as stress and fatigue may worsen or diminish stuttering, but do not cause it.

The speech-language pathologist: A professional who is there to help

For young children, it is recommended that a speech-language pathologist be consulted if the stuttering has been occurring for more than 12 months;

  • the child is four years of age or older.
  • In older people, it is recommended that they not wait to see a specialist.

Speech therapy is done in two steps:

  1. Achieving flowing speech;
  2. Maintaining this improved speaking capacity.

Most young children will be able to speak normally following treatment. In school-age children, teens and adults, results vary from one person to the next. However, anyone who undergoes treatment will find it possible to improve, so that communicating becomes easier and more enjoyable.

At any age, it is never too late to seek the help of a speech-language pathologist.


Communication is a two-way street. You can help a person who stutters by exhibiting accommodating behaviours that may help lower stress levels: 

  • Pause between sentences;
  • Maintain steady eye contact;
  • Let the person finish their sentences.

People who stutter have good days and not-so-good days. There’s no point in trying to give the person tips on how to speak (saying things like “take your time” or “breathe,” for example).

To find a speech-language pathologist, refer to the Où consulter? section of the Ordre des orthophonistes et audiologistes du Québec’s Web site at

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