It’s hard to believe, but the man with one of the most well-recognized voices on the planet used to stutter. 

James Earl Jones-- the actor whose strong, resonating vocals were featured in the Star Wars saga—stuttered so severely when he was a child that he barely spoke to anyone for eight years. 

Your son or daughter may not have a world-famous voice, but to you, those sweet, beautiful syllables are the most precious sounds on earth. It’s heartbreaking to watch your child struggle to read aloud or have a conversation. Even worse, speech difficulties can make it difficult for your child to succeed in school.Thankfully, speech language pathologists and audiologists can help your child’s speech problems, but it’s vital to get help early. 

How common is stuttering?

Roughly three million Americans stutter, and it’s most common in children between 2 and 6 years old, according to information from the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

In addition:

  • Five to 10 percent of all children will stutter.
  • Stuttering may last for a few weeks or several years.
  • Boys are three to four times more likely to stutter than girls.
  • 75 percent of children recover from stuttering and are able to communicate without difficulty
  • 25 percent of children may continually have problems with stuttering throughout their lives

Answering the phone, a job interview, telling a friend about a TV show --- these are things millions of Americans do every day, taking for granted the intricate ballet of muscle movements that must occur in order to produce pure, unobstructed sound. 

Stuttering makes the simplest communication difficult, affecting quality of life, career, and every interpersonal relationship. 


What causes stuttering?

There’s no one cause of stuttering, and scientists are always learning more about this communication disorder and how to treat it. 

Several different factors can contribute to stuttering:

  • Developmental issues: Developmental stuttering—the most common form of stuttering—occurs when young children are learning speech and language skills. Most experts believe it starts when a child’s speech and language skills are unable to meet the child’s verbal demands, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
  • Neurophysiology: Some researchers believe those who stutter physically process language in a different way from those who don’t stutter.


What are signs your child needs speech therapy? 

If your child is experiencing any of the following, you should schedule an appointment with one of our ENT physicians or speech language pathologists.

Speech language pathologists and audiologists help diagnose and treat adults and children with speech and language disorders. They may also help children with autism and young children develop language skills.

The most obvious sign of stuttering is repeating the first syllable of a word (such as “to to top” or “ru ru run”). Also be aware of any time your child stretches out a sound (such as rrrrabbit). 

Other indications of a potential speech problem include repeating whole words (I-I-went- went- I-went to the store) and avoidance of talking altogether. 

Not all signs of stuttering are audible: Tremors or quivering lips, foot-tapping or blinking can also indicate a problem.


How is stuttering treated?

There is no “magic pill” or instant cure for stuttering. However, intervention and speech therapy will help your child overcome it.  These methods may focus on:

  • Gradual progress from single syllable to longer-syllable words
  • Speaking more slowly
  • Breathing regulation
  • Reducing anxiety

If your young child is showing signs of stuttering, early intervention can prevent it from becoming a lifelong problem. We’ve compiled a list of important speech and language milestones to help you determine if your child needs to be seen by a specialist. 


How can I help my child overcome stuttering?

To successfully treat stuttering, it’s important to work closely with every member of your health care team. You may also want to

  • Provide several opportunities for your child to speak. 
  • Listen attentively to your child.
  • Maintain a relaxing home environment.
  • Don’t interrupt your child. Wait for him or her to say the word they are straying to speak.
  • Don’t complete your child’s sentences.
  • If your child mentions stuttering, have an open and honest conversation about it.
  • Be sure to speak in a slow, relaxed manner. 

Help for voice and communication disorders

At Raleigh Capitol ENT, we treat children and adults who have a wide variety of speech and communication challenges. We offer:

  • Evaluation of voice disorders
  • Speech and voice problems for head and neck cancer patients
  • Aural rehabilitation for children with hearing loss—designed to help those with hearing disabilities improve their communication skills
  • Swallowing problems
  • Language therapy

If you’re concerned about your child’s speech development, contact us. We’ll be happy to work with you to help your child overcome his or her challenges.

If you want to know more about stuttering, read the following articles:

Warning Signs of Stuttering

Important Speech Development Milestones 

Raleigh Capitol Ear, Nose, and Throat is the area's premiere physician-owned ENT practice with six convenient locations throughout Wake County. Our board-certified physicians have extensive experience in treating both common and complex cases to help adults and children alike. We offer six local ENT offices throughout Raleigh, Cary, Garner and Wake Forest.  For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact us.


American Speech-Language Hearing Association. Online. 

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communications Disorders. National Institutes of Health. 
“Stuttering.” Online.  

What Research is Being Done on Stuttering?” Online. 
The Stuttering Foundation. “Famous People Who Stutter.” Online. 

Stuttering FAQ”