Many parents become concerned when they notice their child showing signs of stuttering. They may wonder: Is stuttering normal or should I get professional help? Is there anything I can do to assist my child in overcoming this hurdle?
For many children, repeating sounds or syllables form part of the way in which they learn how to use language and put words together to make sentences. It is not an uncommon occurrence in toddlers.
Young children below the age of 5 years may overcome stuttering without professional intervention, this is termed spontaneous recovery. Spontaneous recovery during the preschool years occurs within a window period of 6 months from the onset of stuttering. For other preschoolers however, it may persist longer and this may affect the child’s self-esteem, confidence or social interaction. 1
What is stuttering?
Stuttering is a fluency disorder characterized by the repetition of sounds, words or syllables. Interruptions in speech such as silent or audible blocks and prolongation of sounds are also features of stuttering.
Children who stutter know precisely what they want to say, yet somehow they have trouble producing speech that flows normally. When their speech becomes interrupted, they may show secondary behaviours like lip tremors or rapid eye blinks. 2
At what age does stuttering begin?
Stuttering can affect anyone, no matter how old you are. Most often, it occurs in young children, usually between ages 2 to 6.
Developmental childhood stuttering is seen in young children during the time period when they are acquiring speech and language skills.
Neurogenic stuttering may occur at any age after head trauma, a stroke, or any other kind of brain injury. With this type of stuttering, the brain may have difficulty coordinating the different regions of the brain that are involved in speaking. This makes it difficult for the person to produce fluent speech. 2
What causes stuttering?
Various factors are thought to contribute to stuttering. These include:
- Genetic factors.
- Developmental delays.
- Other issues with language and speech.
- Differences in the way our brain processes language.
Children who stutter were found to use different parts of the brain to process language and this affects the way in which the messages from the brain are carried over to the body parts used for speaking.
Some of these differences include: 3
- Over-activation in a part of the frontal lobe known as the right frontal operculum and insula.
- Decreased activation in the temporal lobe in the auditory association areas.
- Increased cerebellar as well as motor neuron activation.
The benefits of stuttering therapy
Early treatment is particularly beneficial for young children. Stuttering therapy aims to help children who stutter to speak fluently.
The Lidcombe Program is an evidence-based behavioural treatment approach used for preschool children who stutter. 3
A study by Jones et al (2005) evaluated the success of the Lidcombe programme by comparing the approach to a control group. Fifty-four children between ages 3 to 6 years were divided into two groups of 29 participants (Lidcombe program) and 25 participants in the control group.
The results of the randomised controlled trial supported early intervention in children who stutter and the Lidcombe programme was shown to be an effective treatment for stuttering in children. 5
Another study by Lattermann, Euler and Neumann (2008) investigated the short-term effects resulting from treatment using the Lidcombe program. After four months of treatment, the children’s stuttering decreased significantly at the clinic and at home. 6
Parent training is of vital importance and parents are guided by the clinician to ensure that the treatment creates a positive experience for both the child and their family.3
At The Speech Practice, we understand how important communication is in social situations and we want to encourage you to take the necessary steps to help your child gain the confidence needed for their day-to-day interactions. Get in touch with us at The Speech Practice to learn more about the services we offer.
- Chang SE, Kenney MK, Loucks TM, Ludlow CL. Brain activation abnormalities during speech and non-speech in stuttering speakers. Neuroimage. 2009 May 15;46(1):201-12.
- Jones M, Onslow M, Packman A, Williams S, Ormond T, Schwarz I, Gebski V. Randomised controlled trial of the Lidcombe programme of early stuttering intervention. bmj. 2005 Sep 22;331(7518):659.
- Lattermann C, Euler HA, Neumann K. A randomized control trial to investigate the impact of the Lidcombe Program on early stuttering in German-speaking preschoolers. Journal of Fluency Disorders. 2008 Mar 1;33(1):52-65.