Young people

What is stammering?

In this section we talk about what stammering can be like on the inside for people (thoughts and feelings and how people cope with it) as well as what it looks or sounds like . Stammering is different for everybody but you may find something that you relate to. Getting to know your stammer can be the first step in becoming more desensitised to stammering and getting on with living your life the way that you want to. Therapy can help you take the next steps.

Stammering means that your words get stuck. You know what you want to say but you can’t say it.

Stammering or stuttering?

Stammering and stuttering mean the same thing. We use stammering at the MPC.

The stammering iceberg

Stammering is often likened to an iceberg because some of stammering is on the outside (like the part of the iceberg that is above the water) and some is hidden so that maybe only you know about it (the part of the iceberg that is below the water). We call these the overt and covert aspects of stammering.

  • I repeat whole words, e.g. “and-and-and then I left”
  • I repeat bits of words (sounds or syllables) e.g. “wh-wh-when are we going?”
  • I prolong or stretch sounds, e.g. “I like mmmmusic”
  • I block – my tongue and lips are in position to say a word but the air stops flowing and my tongue, lips and jaw stop moving. I feel stuck
  • I tense up or push with my face or body to try to get the word out
  • I do something with my body to try and get the word out (e.g. stamp my feet, shift position, move my head, blink my eyes, or tap my fingers)
  • I do something with my body to try to hide my stammer (e.g. putting a hand over my mouth, turning away)


  • I worry about what people might think (i.e. that they will think I am weird or stupid, or that there is something wrong with me)I
  • I worry about how people will react (i.e. that they people won’t listen to me, that they’ll walk away, that they will laugh at me or talk about me behind my back)
  • I have a negative belief about myself because of my stammer (i.e. I think that I’m not good at talking because I have a stammer, that I can’t do things because I stammer, or won’t be able to do things in the future because I stammer
  • I go over and over things in my mind (i remember all the things that I wasn’t pleased bout and I give myself a hard time)


  • I feel anxious, nervous or embarrassed, ashamed, frustrated, sad, guilty, angry or helpless

Things I do to hide my stammer

  • I sometimes decide to stay quiet (i.e. choose to not put my hand up even though I know the answer, not join in group discussions, not speak as much as I would like to when I’m with my friends)
  • I sometimes change words so I can use a word that feels safer, even though it isn’t what I really wanted to say
  • I sometimes say “it doesn’t matter” or say as little as possible
  • I find ways to get out of doing presentations in class or try to go last to put it off
  • I’ve chosen subjects, or am thinking of choosing subjects that don’t involve as much talking
  • I sometimes say no to invitations to go out
  • I don’t use the telephone unless I have to
  • I ask someone to speak for me, like asking a friend to order food for me.

These are all things that many people who stammer do to cope. Probably not all the time, but in some situations.

What can I do?

Everyone is different. Some people want help and some people don’t particularly. Both are fine

If you want help talk to your local speech therapist, to a parent, or to your GP about getting referred to the MPC. If you are 16 or over you can refer yourself.

Find out about our assessment clinic for 2-18s here.

Get referred or refer yourself if you are 16+ here:

Self-referral form

    REFERRAL TYPE (required)


    PARENT 1

    Title [e.g. Mr., Ms., Mrs., Dr., etc.]:

    PARENT 2

    Title [e.g. Mr., Ms., Mrs., Dr., etc.]:

    PARENT 3

    Title [e.g. Mr., Ms., Mrs., Dr., etc.]:

    PARENT 4

    Title [e.g. Mr., Ms., Mrs., Dr., etc.]:


    Both parents are required to attend the consultation for children up to 16 years old.

    If your child is over 16 please tell us if you would like to have a parent session.

    I would like a parent session

    Who has parental responsibility?

    Parents' status

    Would you like to attend together or separately?

    Please provide name(s) of other partners to be invited and enter their details in PARENT 2, 3 and/or 4 section

    SIBLINGS (names and ages). Siblings are not invited to the assessment.


    School name

    School address

    School post code

    School headteacher

    School telephone

    School email


    GP name

    GP address

    GP telephone number

    GP email




    Name and number of the person we would contact if there were an emergency while you were at the Centre.


    Telephone number




    Post code

    Telephone number

    NHS Trust

    Email address

    When seen (currently or past)

    NHS SLT Manager (to be completed by SLT)




    Post code

    Telephone number

    Email address

    When seen (currently or past)


    Child (required)

    Parent 1 (required)

    Parent 2

    Parent 3

    Parent 4


    Child (required)

    Parent 1 (required)

    Parent 2

    Parent 3

    Parent 4




    Does your child need an interpreter? (required)

    Does the parent / do the parents need an interpreter? (required)


    Onset of stammer

    Has it changed since then?

    When do they stammer more?

    When does it happen less?

    Do you have any idea(s) about why your child started to stammer?

    Any other members of the extended family who stammer now or used to stammer?

    What does your child do when they stammer?

    How do you refer to the problem when talking to your child?


    Advice and guidance to support local therapyIndividual therapy at the Michael Palin CentreGroup therapy at the Michael Palin Centre (ages 10 to 18 years)



    Please send copies of reports to:

    The Michael Palin Centre
    13-15 Pine Street
    London EC1R 0JG

    Previous therapy and progress

    Up-to-date language assessment (for SLT referrals)

    Additional needs (e.g. medical, social, educational, emotional)

    Other professionals involved (e.g. CAMHS, Occupational Therapy, Social Services)

    Any other information

    RESEARCH (for parents)

    Occasionally at the Michael Palin Centre we conduct research studies to investigate stammering. If you would like to receive information about research studies in which you and/or your child can participate then please indicate below. You do not have to commit or participate in any of the studies. You can withdraw from receiving this information at any time without giving any reason.

    Would you like to receive information?



    Contact details if different from above (name is required)

    If you would like a printed copy of your completed referral form, please hit ctrl + ‘p’ (on a PC) or cmd + ‘p’ (on a Mac) before you click submit/send.

    You will receive an automated email to confirm that your referral has been received.

    Did you know?

    Stammering starts around 2 and a half – 3 years of age

    The same number of boys and girls start to stammer but girls are more likely to stop stammering over time so there are usually more teenage or adult men who stammer than women

    Stammering has got nothing to do with intellectual ability

    It tends to be variable – it can change from day-to-day and from one situation to another

    Other people may not know that much about stammering and society as a whole has traditionally viewed it as a “problem” that needs to be “fixed.” No wonder many young people who stammer often feel embarrassed about it.

    Lots of famous people stammer so it doesn’t have to stop you doing what you want to do.

    Gradually society is becoming better educated about stammering.

    Young people

    Sometimes you just need someone to talk to


    Sometimes you just need someone to talk to

    Our Helpline, 020 3316 8100, is open during office hours (9am-5pm) and voicemail messages can be left when the office is closed.

    “It gave me a better understanding of how to talk about stammering with my son and how to help him with his speech and his emotions.”


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