Dr Zak Uddins offers his advice on stammering

Most of us are blessed with the ability to talk fluidly, communicating our thoughts and emotions in an easily understandable manner.

Yet for those with a stammer, this is often not the case.

Stammering is a disorder of speech production and common patterns include long pauses before a word, unnecessary repetition of syllables and the prolongation of the first sound.

In some cases, no sound is heard at all.

The development of speech involves pathways between different areas of the brain, and between the brain and the muscles involved in speaking and breathing.

If these routes develop incorrectly, then a stammer may occur.

This is known as developmental stammering, and can be made worse if the child is under pressure, is excited, or has a lot to say.

However, in time, these pathways can correct themselves.

Stammering may also present in later life, typically after a stroke, head injury or as part of a neurological condition.

We still aren’t exactly sure what causes stammering, but sadly, there are a lot of myths associated with stammering, which I hope to clear up.

It is not a psychiatric illness, rather a neurodevelopmental disorder, and it is not a marker of reduced intellect.

Although figures estimate that up to four fifths of children with a stammer will grow out of it, the evidence for better outcomes argues for addressing the issue directly rather than adopting a position of watchful waiting.

There is a great deal you can do as a parent to help with your child’s speech development by making your home environment as relaxing as possible, thus helping your child’s global development, not just speech and language skills.

Give your child your full attention, with plenty of eye contact and encouraging smiles, and speak in a slow and gentle voice with gaps between your sentences.

Certain comments should be avoided, including “think before you speak” and “take your time."

Remember stuttering is an involuntary disorder, not one that can be corrected by trying harder.

As Canadian speech and language therapist Carla Monteleone says: “A stutter does not define who you are, or your potential to succeed."