While the majority of preschool children who stutter will grow out of it, those who don’t can benefit from early intervention, say Purdue University speech experts.
“Those who persist with stuttering may struggle in school as well as in socializing with their peers,” said Barbara Brown, speech-language pathologist and coordinator of the Purdue Stuttering Project. “Therapy can be especially beneficial in helping these young children cope with anxiety, self-confidence and the feeling of being different. Speech-language therapy can have the greatest positive impact on the child if it begins before stuttering behaviors and physiological patterns of stuttering are firmly established.”
Parents who have concerns should ask for referral to a speech-language pathologist if a child older than 3 begins to stutter or has been stuttering for more than six months. The wait-and-see approach is sometimes recommended because about 50% of 4- and 5-year-olds who stutter recover over time, but Brown said there is a risk in waiting for those who persist in stuttering. Children benefit from therapy at a younger age as the brain is more adaptable and receptive to therapy. Severity of stuttering can vary, but for some people it can become a disability that hinders success in school or influences relationships or careers.
The Purdue Stuttering Project, which is studying the persistence and recovery of stuttering in children, is recruiting 4- and 5-year-olds for a study. To be eligible for the study, children must display stuttered speech, speak English, have hearing within the normal range, and have no learning or neurological difficulties. Families of participating children will receive $100, and those who live more than 60 miles from Purdue will receive $200. Each family also will receive a free assessment of the child’s speech, language and hearing abilities, as well as a written summary of speech and language test results. For more information, contact Brown, at email@example.com or 765-496-6403 or toll-free 866-360-0051.
The Purdue Stuttering Project, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health, looks at behavioral and physiological factors that may help predict which children are at greatest risk for persistence in stuttering. The goal is to create a test battery that speech-language pathologists can administer to identify those children who would benefit from early treatment. Anne Smith, a distinguished professor of speech, language and hearing sciences, and Christine Weber-Fox, a professor of speech, language and hearing sciences, lead the project.