People who stutter have problems with the flow of their speech. Common speech characteristics are:

  • repetitions - repeating sounds or parts of words - m-m-m-m-mummy
  • blocks - silence as the person attempts to speak, they may appear to be struggling to get words out
  • prolongations - drawing out a sound in the word - c-a-a-a-an I have that.

Stuttering is sometimes called stammering: they are the same thing.

What is the cause ? The cause of stuttering is unknown. However, we do know:

  • It is not an emotional disorder, or the result of a trauma or anxiety
  • Children do not imitate it from other children or adults
  • It is not related to low IQ
  • Stuttering may become worse when people are nervous or in a tense situation, but it is not the cause of stuttering. Anxiety or nervousness makes it harder for everyone to talk and simply increases the problem for a person who stutters
  • Stuttering is a problem with the movements necessary for speech; it is not a problem with formulating what to say
  • Most people who stutter have some family history of stuttering
  • Stuttering usually begins before the age of five, and if not treated may become more severe over the years


  • Effective treatment is available for people who stutter from 18 months old. The most important advice is that if a child is stuttering the child needs to be referred to a speech pathologist for assessment. The child is unlikely to simply 'grow out of it'
  • Preschool and school- aged children are treated using the Lidcombe Program, a program developed with the collaboration of the Communication Disorders Treatment and Research Clinic. This program trains parents to assist the child in controlling their stutter. The results from the Lidcombe Program are very encouraging with most children being able to maintain stutter- free speech across all normal speaking situations
  • For adults and adolescents who stutter, a treatment technique called "prolonged speech" is frequently used with adults. This is a speech pattern that replaces the stuttered speech and helps clients control the stutter. This treatment does not "cure" stuttering; however, it allows clients to gain control over their stuttering. Recent developments in treatment for adults who stutter include the Camperdown Program which is offered at our clinic
    Also offered is the Smooth Speech program (see Clinic Services - Special Clinical programs for more information).

The Australian Stuttering Research Centre is the leading centre for research into causes and treatments of stuttering.

Latrobe University has a great web page about stuttering.