Should children who stutter receive early treatment or will stuttering resolve naturally?
Evidenced-based treatment for pre-school aged children who stutter is strong. Unfortunately for school-aged children with stuttering – treatment does not have the same level of evidence. However, there are effective treatment methods available for all patients with stuttering, regardless of their age.
Why the wait and see option is not recommended
There are a number of reasons to treat stuttering for school-aged children as early as possible. Stuttering treatment may be less successful as children get older. As children age, their speech pattern becomes more ingrained. For those older children, treatment may become more focused on managing stuttering rather than eliminating it completely. So early treatment is recommended. Stuttering may lead to increased instances of bullying which can have a negative impact on self-esteem. This can lead to communication difficulties.
Stuttering can cause anxiety and lowered quality of life. This can have an impact socially, or when looking for work or furthering their career due to their communication difficulties. For these reasons it is important to seek advice and treatment, where possible, from a Speech Pathologist with experience treating stuttering in children and adolescents. Evidence-based research exists to support the treatment of stuttering for pre-schoolers and adults.
There are a number of reasons to treat stuttering for school-aged children as soon as possible.
- The neural pathways in the brain become cemented and less malleable as we get older. Stuttering becomes harder to treat and control with age. Full recovery becomes less likely.
- Stuttering can result in social and emotional problems. Studies show that more than 59-80% of stuttering children have been bullied about their speech. 38% on most days or every day in primary school. 11-12 year old children who stutter were almost three times as likely to be bullied as kids who did not stutter.
- Anxiety is one of the most widely observed and extensively studied psychological consequences of stuttering.
- Children who stutter are more likely than those who don’t to repeat a year at school and they also report a lower quality of life.
- These negative effects do outlast high school and can affect the individual’s further education and job opportunities. Adults who stutter are also 7 times more likely to have an anxiety disorder compared to those who do not stutter.
Exciting new evidence supports hybrid treatment using syllable timed speech and the Lidcombe Program. The best treatment for stuttering can be determined by a qualified speech pathologist who is experienced at therapy for people with fluency disorders.
Contact us for results focused speech therapy
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.
• Iverach L, Rapee RM. (2014) Social anxiety disorder and stuttering: current status and future directions. Journal of Fluency Disorders 40:69-82. article link
• 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. pubmed link
• Healey EC, Scott LA, Ellis G, (1995). Decision making in the treatment of school-age children who stutter. Journal of Communication Disorders, 28 (2), June 1995 , pp. 107-124. pubmed link
• Conture E, Guitar B. (1993). Evaluating efficacy of treatment of stuttering: School-age children. Journal of Fluency Disorders, 18, 253-287. abstract link