There is a lot of evidence-based research to support the treatment of stuttering for pre-schoolers and adults. In Australia, there is near consensus among speech pathologists that the Lidcombe Program is the most effective treatment for pre-schoolers who stutter. Clinical trials completed in Australia and across the globe have proven that it works for the majority of children countless times.
But what if it doesn’t? And what about children who are no longer preschool aged? We need better treatments for school-aged children who stutter. Research groups, like the Australian Stuttering Research Centre (ASRC) are working to develop and test new treatments. But front-line speech pathologists and families of school kids who stutter can’t afford to wait for the perfect treatment.
Why we can’t afford to wait for the perfect treatment?
Besides the fact that there is a possibility that no perfect treatment will ever be developed there are a number of reasons to treat stuttering for school-aged children as soon as possible. Here are just a few:
- Stuttering becomes harder to treat and control with age. Full recovery also continues to become less likely with growing age as the neural pathways in the brain become cemented and less malleable.
- With entry into school, stuttering can result in social and emotional problems (Conture & Guitar, 1993). They are at risk of bullying and teasing with studies showing more than 59-80% of stuttering children being bullied about their speech; 38% on most days or every day in primary school; 11-12 year old kids who stutter were almost three times as likely to be bullied as kids who did not stutter; and school children are far more likely to see peers who stutter as victims of bullying than children who do not stutter (Blood & Blood, 2007; Davis et al., 2002; Ezrati-Vinacour et al, 2001; Langevin et al., 1998).
- Studies have also shown that children from 4 onwards begin to experience negative reactions from peers and school-aged children that stutter often develop negative attitudes towards speech and communication, include actively avoiding speaking situations and this continues to worsen during the school years (Denil & Brutten, 1991, Vanryckeghem & Brutten, 1997; Langevin et al., 2009)
- Children who stutter are more likely than those who don’t to repeat a year at school (Boyle et al., 1994) and they also report a lower quality of life than children who do not stutter (Beilby et al., 2012).
- These negative effects do outlast high school and can affect the individual’s further education and job opportunities (Yaruss, 2001). Adults that stutter are also 7 times more likely to have an anxiety disorder compared to those who do not stutter (Iverach et al. 2009). There is a strong association between bullying during the primary school and subsequent anxiety (Gladstone et al., 2006). Social anxiety often starts during early teenage years, which means it’s likely develops during the primary school years (Smith et al., 2014; Messenger et al., 2015).
With all that said, where do you turn if there is no treatment method with strong supporting evidence to treat school-aged children who stutter? Each individual is different and treatment needs to be carefully selected based on a number of factors. There is exciting new evidence to support a hybrid treatment using syllable timed speech and the Lidcombe program. Click here to out more. It is important to work closely with a qualified speech pathologist experienced at treating fluency disorders to determine the right course of action for your child.
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This article was written by our Speech Pathologist Ashleigh Fattah who is a Speech Pathology Australia member. If you have speech pathology related questions, make an appointment. We‘ll provide you with evidence based therapy targeted to your concerns. Contact us today.
Andrews, C., O’Brian, S., Onslow, M., Packman A., Menzies, R & Lowe, R. (2016). Phase II trial of a syllable-timed speech treatment for school-age children who stutter. Journal of Fluency Disorders 48, 44-55.