Don’t “wait and see” with stuttering

August 27, 2013

Although about half of preschoolers who stutter will outgrow it, a wait-and-see approach can do harm to the approximately 25% who will not, say researchers from the Purdue Stuttering Project.

 

Although about half of preschoolers who stutter will outgrow it, a wait-and-see approach can do harm to the approximately 25% who will not, say researchers from the Purdue Stuttering Project.

The latest phase of the Project’s work, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health, is focused on finding physiologic signatures of stuttering that may help to determine which children will outgrow the problem and in whom it will persist. They are recruiting 500 4- and 5-year-olds who stutter in order to study the issue.

The researchers are looking specifically at articulatory coordination, language processing, and emotional sensitivity. They hope to use their findings to develop a test battery that speech therapists can use to determine the likelihood of a child’s stuttering persisting past early childhood. Knowing which children will not outgrow the problem is important because speech-language therapy provides the greatest benefits when it is started before stuttering behaviors and physiological patterns become firmly entrenched.

According to the Purdue researchers, it is not uncommon for 2- and 3-year-olds to stutter, but this quickly narrows down so that only about 5% of 4- and 5-year-olds have the problem. They say that any concerns about whether a child stutters should prompt referral to a speech-language pathologist for an evaluation.

According to the National Stuttering Association (NSA), more than 3 million Americans stutter; most began stuttering between the ages of 2.5 and 5 years. The association offers resources for pediatricians and family physicians on its Web site, as well as informational brochures for patients and their families.


 

 

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