Stuttering is an interruption of the flow and rhythm of speech. This can come in many forms, the most well known of these is repetitions of sounds (s-s-sit), words (and-and-and) or whole phrases (my name is - my name is - my name is). These repetitions can be just once (s-sit) or can be multiple times (s-s-s-s-sit). Stuttering can also manifest as a prolongation of a sound when speaking (aaaaaaand then we) or as a 'block' in speech where it seems as though the speaker is stuck in trying to say a word and no sound comes out. Sometimes, a stutterer can display other behaviours such as grunts, blinking, grimaces or use of fillers (um/er) as part of the fluency disorder.
Who does stuttering affect?
Unfortunately, the exact cause of stuttering is unknown. Some people may be predisposed to stuttering if it runs in their family. Others can be the only person in their family to stutter. Stuttering can affect people of all ages and often begins in childhood, usually by the age of 3. For some, the onset of stuttering is slow and gradual, over days, weeks or months. For others, stuttering can begin in a matter of hours.
Speech Pathology Australia statistics report that as many as 8.5% of three year olds in Australia will stutter. Some children will naturally stop stuttering without any treatment. Unfortunately there is no way to predict who will recover spontaneously and once a child reaches adolescence and adulthood they are very unlikely to recover without treatment.
What impact will stuttering have on my child?
As children begin to be aware of their stuttering, it can cause frustration or anxiety. Children may be teased by their peers and have difficulties in social situations due to the interruption of their fluency. As they get older, anxiety can increase and stuttering can affect the academic and career choices of young adults. This may result in avoidance of or withdrawal from certain social situations.
What is the treatment for stuttering?
For children under the age of six years, The Lidcombe Program of Early Stuttering Intervention is recommended. This behavioural program has extensive research behind it and provides positive outcomes for preschool children who stutter. The program involves the child and their families in order to achieve generalisation across contexts. There is also research to support the use of The Lidcombe Program for school-aged children. For older children and adolescents who stutter, smooth speech and prolonged speech techniques have been shown to reduce and manage stuttering. Please speak to your therapist for futher information about these techniques.
I've been told to wait and see if my child recovers on his own. When should I seek therapy?
Typically, treatment should begin within one year after the onset of stuttering during the preschool years as the effectiveness of treatment decreases for older children. Recent research has shown that not many children will recover from stuttering within that one-year period after onset.
The Australian Stuttering Research Centre reports that, "There is good evidence that when the decision is made to begin Lidcombe Program treatment that it is much better than natural recovery. With what is called a meta-analysis, it has been shown that a stuttering child who receives the Lidcombe Program has seven or eight times better odds of not stuttering than a child who does not receive the Lidcombe Program."
Can Curious Kids help my child who stutters?
Curious Kids therapists are trained in providing The Lidcombe Program to children and their families. Additionally they can work with older children to teach smooth speech and prolonged speech techniques to reduce stuttering.
Reference: Speech Pathology Australia Stuttering Factsheet, Australian Stuttering Research Centre