What is Stuttering?
Stuttering is a speech disorder which is defined by dysfluencies in a person’s speech. The cause of stuttering is not currently known but research has shown some relation to genetics. That is, if there is a history of stuttering in the family, there is a likelier chance that your child may stutter.
Stuttering can be characterised by:
- Repetition of sounds or words (e.g. ‘b-b-ball’)
- Prolongation of sounds (e.g. ‘Theeeeeere’s the ball’)
- Getting stuck or blocked – silence as the person tries to speak
- In severe cases, it can also sometimes be accompanied by secondary behaviours such as tic-like facial and/or body movements
Some children do stop stuttering without any intervention. The exact percentage of children who naturally recover varies across studies, however, one study reported that 5% of preschool children who started stuttering recovered during the next 12 months (Onslow & O’Brian, 2012). The majority of children who stutter will require professional help.
The Long-Term Effects of Stuttering
Adults with chronic stutter can often experience anxiety in everyday situations, such as checking out at a grocery store, speaking on the telephone, telecommunicating, and more. This may impact a person’s quality of life and ability to participate in all aspects of their lives.
Can Stuttering be Treated?
Stuttering is treated most effectively in the early childhood years. The best time to treat children who stutter is between 3 to 5 years of age. Most children treated at this age go on to be stutter-free throughout their lives. Adults who have a chronic stutter are often taught techniques to help manage their stuttering, however, are unlikely to completely eliminate it.
Treatment of Stuttering for Children
The current best practice treatment for children under the age of 6, is the Lidcombe Program. This program requires parents to play a critical part in their children’s therapy under the guidance of a Speech Pathologist. Parents are trained in the Lidcombe Program to encourage children during everyday situations to speak without stuttering. The treatment itself is enjoyable for both parents and children.
For those school-age children who are older than 6, the Oakville Program is generally recommended. It is a hybrid of Syllable-Timed Speech and the Lidcombe Program. Parents encourage children to use syllable-timed speech (i.e. speaking to a rhythmic beat) and provide verbal contingencies for stutter-free and stuttered speech during practice sessions and throughout the day.
Treatment of Stuttering for Adolescents/Adults
Treatments targeting the management of stuttering for adolescents and adults are also available. The Camperdown Program, which involves learning a technique to control the stutter, is commonly used. Speech Pathologists may also choose to teach clients other speech restructuring techniques to help with the management and control of their stutter.
When Should a Parent Seek Help?
If you notice your child is unable to produce fluent speech and is repeating, prolonging, and/or getting stuck when trying to speak, seek a Speech Pathologist. Our professional Speech Pathologists are trained in stuttering therapy, treatment and management and ready to help assess and manage your child’s stuttering.
Can stuttering be treated using Telehealth?
Treatment delivered via telehealth is really effective. Many clients access speech therapy for their stutter this way if they live far from our clinic, or are unable to attend due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For more advice and help, call us on 02 9398 3020