Stuttering and Mindfulness: Strategies to Support Smooth Speech

children practicing mindfulness

Did you know that roughly 3 million Americans stutter?  Stuttering can affect people of all ages, but it is seen most frequently in children from ages 2-6 as they build and develop their speech and language skills.

As research behind stuttering develops, more strategies to support smooth speech and confidence in talking have been discovered.  In recent years, more research has provided evidence for using mindfulness to reduce tense or bumpy speech. Here are a few ways mindfulness can help positively impact speech.

What is mindfulness?

We often hear mindfulness as a buzzword that floats around articles and conversations. To your child, this word may have little meaning to them. To help your child understand the word “mindfulness”, try using this definition:

Mindfulness is giving your full attention to something that is happening right now. We listen to our bodies and notice all of our feelings.

What does mindfulness have to do with stuttering?

Mindfulness encourages a person to work with their body in a moment of stress and give themselves an opportunity to calm down.  According to stuttering expert and speech-language pathologist Michael Boyle, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, mindfulness “encourages emotional regulation and attentional regulation skills” which help to reduce anxiety that tends to exacerbate moments of stuttering (Boyle, M.P., 2011)*.  By employing mindfulness skills, the speaker may decrease physical tension in moments of stuttering and also become more in tune with sensations in moments just before or during stuttering.

What are some strategies I can use at home?

Though mindfulness sounds like something that can only be achieved by adults or older children, there are activities that can be used to support mindfulness with younger children as well. Mindfulness strategies often start with focusing on breath.  Breathing exercises encourage individuals to focus on their breathing and reduce their attention to distractions or negative thoughts. These strategies can be utilized daily to help your child develop mindfulness of their body and speech.  Here are a few common ones:

Box Breathing

  1. Close your eyes and/or get in a comfortable position.
  2. Using your index finger, you will trace the outline of a box on the surface in front of you.
  3. While tracing a line upward, inhale breath through the nose for a count 4.
  4. While tracing a line horizontally, hold the inhaled breath for a count of 4.
  5. While tracing a line downward, exhale breath through mouth for a count of 4.
  6. While tracing a line horizontally, hold exhaled breath for a count 4.
  7. Repeat as needed.


  1. Close your eyes and/or get in a comfortable position.
  2. Hold up five fingers with one hand
  3. Using your index finger on the other hand, trace your extended five fingers starting at the thumb.
  4. While slowly moving your index finger upward, inhale through your nose.
  5. While slowly moving your index finger downward, exhale through your mouth.
  6. Repeat as needed.

Flower and Candle

  1. Close your eyes and/or get in a comfortable position.
  2. Place an index finger in front of your face.
  3. Take a deep breath in through your nose while imagining your finger is a flower.
  4. Exhale while imagining your finger is a birthday candle, gently blowing out the flame.
  5. Repeat as needed.

After trying these different exercises, encourage your child to pick their favorite. It is important to have a discussion with them to use this special tool in situations that make them feel anxious or overwhelmed – or whenever they feel “bumpy” speech coming.

If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s speech and language development, please feel free to contact the Clubhouse to arrange an evaluation or free screening.

Written by Mary Nevins, M.A., CF-SLP

*Boyle M. P. (2011). Mindfulness training in stuttering therapy: a tutorial for speech-language pathologists. Journal of fluency disorders, 36(2), 122–129.


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