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What is the Difference Between Stammering and Stuttering?

By Debra Durkee
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Stammering and stuttering are two terms used interchangeably to refer to the same speech disorder. Both refer to a problem in which an individual has difficulty forming words in their entirety. He may elongate certain syllables, hesitate mid-word, or repeat syllables before being able to continue with the word.

Another term for stammering and stuttering is speech disfluency. It occurs more often in boys than in girls, and may or may not continue through childhood and into adulthood. The condition can be made worse under stressful situations, including during public speaking or conversing with strangers. It is an involuntary reforming of words that can manifest in a number of patterns.

Some who stutter take a single syllable within the word and elongate it or repeat it. Sometimes, entire words might be repeated before the individual can continue with the sentence. Other times, a sentence may be broken up by sounds or syllables that do not belong. For some people, there may be a forced pause between words and syllables, which can cause frustration that makes the condition even worse. The difficulty in conveying meaning and finishing sentences, and the frustration of dealing with others who interrupt a stutterer's halted speech, can all damage the self-esteem of the individual.

Severe cases of stammering and stuttering can include other physical movements that seem to go along with the speech difficulties. When frustrated, adults and children alike may develop facial body tics that accompany difficulties speaking; this can be particularly visible in individuals whose speech is broken by pauses where there seems to be a physical inability to get the words out. Tapping the foot or gesturing with the hands are common tics.

Many individuals who have been diagnosed with problems stammering and stuttering can find ways to get around the problem. Singing or rhythmic dialogue can help an individual learn to regulate speech patterns; reciting poetry helped James Earl Jones come to terms with his stutter, and many stutterers have no problems when singing or reading something with rhythm. Other types of speech therapy found to help control stammering and stuttering are support groups, concentrating on controlled breathing as well as the movements of the lips, tongue and mouth, and the repetition of lessons. Working with others who simply make the stutterer feel comfortable can go a long way in improving an individual's speech, and some people have found speaking to animals comforting and therapeutic.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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