Fluency/Stuttering C

The term ‘stuttering’ describes a specific type of dysfluent speech production. Usually (but not always) stuttering is a communication disorder which follows a person through from early childhood.
Evidence shows that the best time to treat stuttering is in the early years, as a preschooler.
The exact cause of stuttering continues to be unknown; however it is strongly thought to be a problem involving the coordination of speech. Many people who stutter are known to have other relatives who stutter, or used to stutter, so it would appear that there may be a genetic link.
It is also known that stuttering occurs more commonly in boys than in girls.
It is not uncommon for a stutter to appear at approximately 2 – 4 years of age when children are beginning to join more and more words together to make longer sentences. For some children, this appears to be a natural dysfluency which occurs temporarily during this stage of language development. For others, it may be the emergence of a true stutter which will require treatment. Unfortunately it is difficult to distinguish between a dysfluency which will disappear in due course and one which will not.
• Blocks – a sudden halt in the speaking process, during which time the person may be seen to be groping for the right sound/word. Speech blocks may be overcome very quickly, or they may last for many seconds.
• Repetitions – single sounds, parts of words, whole words or even short phrases may be repeated several times before the person continues on with the rest of the sentence.
• Prolongations – drawing a sound out, making it much longer than it would usually be.
• Secondary behaviours – sometimes the person may move another part of their body, apparently unnecessarily – such as blink, jerk their head, or tap their hand/foot.
There is good evidence to suggest that treatment for stuttering in pre-school aged children can be successful in eliminating stuttered speech.
In some instances when stuttering is only mild and is a newly developed behaviour, a young child’s fluency may improve simply with the introduction of some parent-modeled strategies within the home environment.
If it is decided that a more structured approach is necessary, then research studies show that the Lidcombe Program is most effective in treating stuttering in this age group.
At school-age, stuttering can still be treated successfully, but it is more likely that the child will learn to control the stutter, rather than eliminate the behaviour completely.
There is still a lot of research to be done in regards to stuttering treatments in this age group. Depending upon the child’s age, maturity and support systems, a range of stuttering treatments may be considered (including the Lidcombe Program).
No matter the age of the child, nor the chosen treatment method, it is known that in order for therapy to be effective, commitment to consistent practice is essential. Daily practice is required and a minimum of weekly speech therapy sessions in the early months of therapy is highly recommended. When considering stuttering treatment for school-aged children, in particular, parents need to consider the commitment required for this treatment regime and to weigh up whether therapy is a viable option during a busy day in a busy lifestyle.