New research on stuttering gives encouraging news to parents of preschoolers who suffer from the impediment: if treated early and intensely, a child may escape social and emotional repercussions later on. The study is being published in the September issue of the journal Pediatrics.
The research was conducted by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute at the University of Melbourne. Lead author of the study Professor Sheena Reilly led a team of researchers who analyzed 1,600 children from infancy until the age of four. They discovered that earlier studies underestimate the number of children who stutter; Reilly and her team found that 1 in 10 children present with stuttering problems by the age of 4. This increase may be in part because earlier research did not include children under three, when in fact most children develop the problem between the ages of two and three.
Perhaps of greater interest is the fact that if caught early, social and developmental issues traditionally associated with stuttering can be avoided if the child undergoes intense speech therapy. One reason for this is that at the time of onset, a child doesn’t realize that he’s “different” so there are no social anxiety issues to overcome.
According to stuttering therapist Stephen Hill, there are a number of reasons why a child may develop a stuttering problem: bullying, shock from a traumatic event such as a car crash, or an overbearing or aggressive family member. After overcoming his own speech impediment he developed in childhood, Hill has devoted his life to helping others with speech problems achieve fluency.