This treatment, although not in its final stages and with its limitations, shows promising results for a hybrid treatment to reduce stuttering severity and increase the quality of life of some school-aged children who stutter.
In a recent blog, I spoke about promising research that is being conducted by Cheryl Andrews and her colleagues targeted at treating school-aged children with syllable-timed speech therapy. This phase 2 study included 22 school-aged children between the ages 6-11 years who stuttered. Of the Participants, 16 were male and 6 were female. Throughout the course of the treatment, 3 of the children were withdrawn as they did not meet the requirements to graduate into Stage 2 of the program.
One of the more promising points about this study, was that the patients had a diverse range of co-morbidities and exposure to previous therapies. This was unlike some previous studies, that did not resemble a varied population sample and give the study external validity.
In the current study:
- Previous treatments had been undergone by 14 of the children with 6 having had more than one course of treatment
- Co morbidities were present in 9 children including language learning impairments, speech sounds issues, ADHD, literacy problems, and obsessive-compulsive disorders
- More than one language is spoken by 17 of the children however all were fluent English speakers with none speaking a syllable-timed language
- A range from mild to severe stutters were included
A range of outcome measures was also used including stuttering severity, satisfaction with treatment and quality of life to measure real world outcomes that affect children and their families. An average of 10.7 sessions conducted over an average of 21.6 weeks (range from 9-39 weeks) was required for the 16 participants to complete the program and outcomes were measured at several points.
The percentage of syllables stuttered fell from an average of 8.4% to 1.9%. This is a 77% average reduction however; there was a wide range of individual outcomes with 2 children not responding at all to the treatment. No child ceased stuttering completely, however 5 of the children stuttered less than 1 in every 100 syllables (i.e. very mildly) 12 months after the end of the first stage of treatment.
The children’s own assessment of their stuttering severity were consistent with the percentage of syllables stuttered. They reported an average 64.9% reduction in their stuttering severity. 11 out of the 16 children reported reduced avoidance of social situations compared to pre-treatment; however, social avoidance did remain an issue. All the children reported they were more satisfied with their speech fluency apart from one child whose satisfaction levels did not change.
A statistically significant improvement on a standardised quality of life assessment was measured for all but one child and the children’s speech in normal conversation did not sound more rhythmic after the treatment.
This approach to therapy provides sufficient evidence of a possible treatment effect to warrant further studies and provides speech pathologies and families with a much-needed evidence-based treatment to continue providing tailored support to school-age children who stutter.