Can Stuttering Go Away with Speech Therapy?

If you or someone you love stutters, you may be curious about how to “fix” stuttering. While stuttering, also known as stammering, is more common than many people think, the person who stutters may feel self-conscious or alone. This difference in how they communicate may lead them to seek out speech therapy.

But here’s something that may surprise you. Speech therapy doesn’t aim to fix or cure a stutter! The goal of stuttering therapy is to help children and adults manage their stutter, speak with greater ease, and feel confident when they communicate. 

In stuttering therapy, the speech therapist can show a person ways to help manage or control their stutter. As a result, their stutter may decrease. But even if it doesn’t, speech therapy helps the person feel empowered to speak freely, in all kinds of situations. It also teaches parents and caregivers how to support their child who stutters.

Read on to learn more about how stuttering therapy works.

The best treatment for stuttering

It’s important to know that there is no “cure” for stuttering. While speech therapy may prevent a child who stutters from stuttering into adulthood, this isn’t always the case.

So you may be wondering, “What’s all the fuss about speech therapy if it can’t fix a stutter? Will anything help a stutter go away?”

The best treatment for stuttering usually focuses on these things:

  • Teaching techniques to manage a stutter and achieve greater ease of speech

  • Reducing avoidance behaviors, in which the person avoids certain situations for fear of stuttering

  • Helping the person become a strong and confident communicator, however that looks and sounds for them as an individual 

  • Supporting the person in advocating for themselves and being open about their stutter

  • When treating children, educating their parents and caregivers about stuttering and how best to support the child

3 techniques to manage stuttering

Let’s take a closer look at three of the most common techniques taught during stuttering therapy. Not all of them work for every person, so your speech therapist will likely explore a variety of options. 

1 Easy onsets

Easy onsets are a technique to prevent stuttering from happening. They're used on words that begin with a vowel. As you begin to say the word, you use your voice very slowly and gently.

Here’s how easy onsets work:

1. First, take a deep breath.

2. Slowly exhale, letting out a small, easy breath–like making an /h/ sound.

3. Begin to slowly turn on your voice, starting with a very quiet sound.

4. Slowly increase your volume to a normal speaking voice.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you were trying to say the word “apple.” Start by taking a deep breath, then let the air out slowly and gently say, “hhhhHHHHapple.” Over time, you'll become used to this technique and the /h/ won't sound quite as pronounced.

The early onset technique can increase speech fluency, or smoothness. When you use it, you’re learning how to decrease tension in your vocal folds by gently voicing a word, instead of closing the vocal folds hard to start saying the word. Tension is what creates moments of stuttering. So, the more we can avoid tension, the smoother speech will be.

2 Light contact

This technique can be used to change how you speak in order to prevent disfluencies, or interrupted speech. When we talk, we use our teeth, lips, and tongue to form various sounds. But as mentioned above, if there's too much tension when forming sounds, stuttering can happen.

In order to reduce tension and avoid stuttering, many people find success with light contact. Here's an example.

Let’s say you're trying to make the /t/ sound. Think about how you form this sound: the tip of the tongue taps behind the front teeth.

Now say the /t/ sound three times in a row, with even lighter pressure each time. By the last /t/ sound, your tongue should barely touch the back of the teeth, but still just enough to make the /t/ sound.

This amount of pressure is what you should use when speaking. Using less tension can greatly improve overall speech fluency!

3 Stretched syllables

This technique is exactly what it sounds like–a stretched, or prolonged, syllable. Stretching syllables in words can help prevent stuttering from happening. When stretching a syllable, the person should lengthen it for about 2 seconds each time.

Here’s an example. Try the word “singer.” You would stretch the word as “sssiiingeeerrr,” allowing about 2 seconds for each syllable.

It may seem unnatural to stretch syllables this long. And it’s true, we don’t typically speak this way. But if it prevents a person from getting caught in a stutter, then it can definitely save time and frustration!

How to advocate for yourself as a person who stutters

In addition to teaching techniques like those above, stuttering therapy focuses on learning how to advocate for yourself as a person who stutters. Parents and caregivers can also learn how to advocate for their child who stutters.

Advocating means to speak up for what you need, or to speak up for another person. It can look like this: 

Letting the listener know what you need from them. The person who stutters is an expert on how they communicate. They know what they need. It’s important for them to explain that so their listeners can support them. For example, people who stutter may want their communication partner to be a patient listener who doesn’t interrupt or fill in words for them. 

Making self-disclosure statements. Self-disclosure refers to telling someone about your stutter. These statements can be an extremely powerful tool. Self-disclosure helps the person educate others and advocate for themself. Many people who stutter have reported increased comfort and better quality of life when using self-disclosure statements.

These statements can be used to inform others, clarify what’s happening, and educate others. Here are some examples of each:

Inform others: “Hey, I’m Abby, and I stutter.”

Clarify: “You might notice that I stutter. So if you hear a stutter or break in my speech, that’s what’s happening.”

Educate: "If you hear pauses or blocks in my speech, please wait patiently. I know what I want to say; I just need time to get my words out."

If you have a child who stutters, you can work on a simple, direct phrase for them to use that sums up what they need. It might be something like, “I may stutter; please wait for me to say what I need to.”

Educating others about stuttering. Another way to advocate for yourself is by teaching other people about stuttering. Stuttering is a misunderstood condition, and the prejudice that comes with it can have a real impact. Awareness and understanding can make a difference!

It’s important for people to understand that stuttering is a form of verbal diversity. That means it’s a different way of speaking, and it doesn’t need to be “fixed.” The person who stutters can talk about what happens when they stutter and how it feels. 

Joining a stuttering support group. There are many in-person and online support groups to connect with others and learn more ways to advocate. Try looking for a stuttering support group through these organizations:

3 ways to help your child who stutters

As a parent or caregiver, there are things you can do–and avoid–to support your child who stutters.

1 Model "easy speech" to help your child's stutter

One of the easiest strategies to remember and practice is called "easy speech." For young kids who aren’t yet aware of their stutter, we want to support them in an indirect way that doesn't necessarily draw attention to the stutter itself. When you model easy, relaxed speech when talking with your child, you'll notice that their speech will start to imitate yours if you remain consistent.

What does "easy speech" sound like? Easy speech involves stretching out your words and keeping your rate of speech slow. You can still be animated and use different tones of voice, but your speech should be smooth.

It can take some time getting used to this technique so that you naturally speak with your child this way. Give yourself time, and keep practicing!

2 Take turns in conversation

Another tip is to try and manage conversations in your household. As a child, it can feel tough to have your chance at talking when everyone else has something to say. If your child is showing signs of stuttering and they have siblings, try to insist on conversational turn-taking, so everyone gets a chance to talk. The dinner table can be a great place to try this out.

3 Remove pressure on your child who stutters

We can also reduce conversational pressure when talking with a child who stutters. Try making more comments and observations, rather than asking them direct questions. Let's take reading together, for example. Instead of asking "What is the bear doing on this page?," try saying, "I see the bear eating honey."

Also, make pauses in your own speech when you're answering questions that your child asks. This will show them that taking your time to respond is OK.

Remember, the best treatment for stuttering will focus on building the person’s confidence so they feel empowered to speak freely in all situations. Don’t hesitate to contact a speech therapist if you or someone you love could benefit from stuttering therapy. Every person should feel supported to be the best communicator they can be.

Sign up for a consultation
Discuss your communication needs with a speech therapist for free
Get started

More from

Watch learning jump (leap! spring! hop!) from your sessions into the real world.

Get started