Note: the following is taken directly and completely from the National Stuttering Association's "Notes to Listeners" pamphlet.  The mailing address and phone number for the NSA follow at the bottom of this page.


Notes To Listeners
What to do
And what to know
When speaking
with a person
who stutters

Notes to Listeners
When you are talking to someone who is having trouble speaking fluently, they most likely have a stuttering problem.  You will probably react appropriately by instinct, but if you are not sure what to do, you are not alone.

Stuttering is often misunderstood and can cause the listener to to feel anxious.  If you keep the following in mind, however, the experience will be a more comfortable one for you and the person who stutters.

What to Know


About one percent of adults and three percent of children stutter.
2We do not know why people stutter, but apparently it is not a nervous disorder.  People who stutter are normal, except they lack the ability in varying degrees to get words out fluently.   It is known that stuttering runs in families and research shows neurological components are probably involved in the disorder.  Stuttering almost always starts between the ages of two and five.  Also, boys are five times more likely than girls to stutter; a gender ratio we see in other developmental disorders.
3Stuttering is a complex set of behaviors that interfere with normal, fluent speech.  People who stutter may repeat syllables or "block" speaking.  There are as many different patterns of behavior as there are people who stutter.
4The degree to which people stutter varies widely.  Some people who stutter have more natural control over their speech than others do.  The degree of stuttering will also vary within the individual.  How much control they have will depend on the particular situation in which they find themselves, the difficulty of the words they must say, and how they feel in general at that moment.  People who stutter universally report having "good days" and "bad days."
5Stuttering may look like an easy problem that can be solved with some simple advice, but for adults it is a chronic life-long disorder.  People who stutter can achieve more control over their speech, but total fluency is not a realistic goal for most adults.
6People generally do not stutter when they sing, whisper, speak in chorus, or when they do not hear their own voice.   There is no universally accepted explanation for these phenomena.

How to React When Speaking With a Person Who Stutters


You might be very tempted to finish sentences or fill in words for the person.  Unless you know the person well and have his or her permission, please do not do this.  Your action could be taken as demeaning.  Of course, if you guess the wrong word, the difficulties multiply.
2Refrain from making remarks like: "Slow down," "Take a Breath," or "Relax."  Such advice can be felt as patronizing and is not constructive.
3Maintain eye contact and try not to look embarrassed or alarmed.  Just wait patiently and naturally until the person is finished.
4Be aware that people who stutter usually have more trouble controlling their speech on the telephone.  Saying "Hello," in particular, often presents a special problem.  Please be extra patient in this situation.
5People sometimes ask if they should ask the person questions about his or her stuttering.  This is something we must leave to your judgement.  But surely, stuttering is not a taboo subject.  If you have a question about it, the person will probably appreciate your interest.  It is in your mutual benefit that it be talked about openly.

You should be prepared that some people who stutter will be sensitive about it, but if you follow the rules of common courtesy, you should be fine.
6The person's stuttering sometimes makes it harder to understand what he or she is saying.  If you do not understand what is said to you, do not be afraid to say "I'm sorry, I didn't understand what you just said."  No matter how much of a struggle it was for them to say it, this is preferable to your pretending you understood, or guessing what his or her communication was.
7Set a relaxed pace when possible, using a moderate rate of speech yourself.
8In general, let the person know by your manner and actions that you are listening to what he or she is saying and not how he or she is saying it.  Be yourself.  Be a good listener.
 The National Stuttering Association is the largest self-help organization in the U.S. for people who stutter with local support groups in over 80 cities and about 3,000 members nationwide.  The NSA provides information, advocacy and support for people who stutter and the professionals who work with them

More About Stuttering...

Our Mission
The National Stuttering Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing hope, dignity, support, education and empowerment to children and adults who stutter.

National Stuttering Association
5100 E. La Palma Ave #208
Anaheim Hills, CA 92807
(800)364-1677 or (714) 693-7480
Fax: (714) 693-7554
Web Site:

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