will with blah blah dollsParents often get alarmed when their preschooler begins to repeat words or even sounds as their language is developing. I know from experience in my family as well as with little clients, that the majority of preschool children grow out of this dysfluent pattern, often after it comes and goes. Purdue University speech experts say that a wait-and-see approach to those preschoolers who don’t grow out of it can set them back academically and socially.

“The recovery rate is high, about 50 percent for 4- and 5-year olds who stutter, and so it is often suggested to wait and see, but that is not always the best approach. Early intervention is critical for those children who will not grow out of stuttering,” says Bridget Walsh, a research scientist and speech-language pathologist with the Purdue Stuttering Project. “We want children to be successful communicators from the start. The longer a child stutters maladaptive speech patterns may become more ingrained and less amenable to treatment. For some children, stuttering can become a severe lifelong disability.”

It is best for parents to consult with a speech language pathologist for a consultation or evaluation if they are concerned that their child stutters. I recently received and email from a parent who carefully described his 3 year-old’s speech pattern, what changes were going on the the family (new baby!) and how long it had been going on. Based on that information, I gave him some information and suggested he check back in a few months. Other times, based on the history of the stuttering, I have recommended an evaluation and therapy, especially if the stuttering starts later than 3 years of age or if the child has been stuttering for 6 months or more.  It is important to look for a therapist who specializes in stuttering therapy and preschoolers!  You can contact ASHA for names in your area.

“When stuttering starts later, children are less likely to grow out of it,” Brown says. “Therapy, both direct and indirect, can help reduce stuttering severity because the brain is still undergoing developmental changes and is adaptive. Therapy services also can help young children deal with fears and frustrations that affect their self-esteem and interactions with their peers.”

Since it is difficult to determine which children will recover from stuttering and which will persist, I am thankful that the Purdue Stuttering Project scientists are studying this and working on a test battery that  speech language pathologists could administer to determine which children would benefit from early treatment. I certainly would welcome this as a valuable tool to best serve kids.

For more information on the Purdue Stuttering Project:t http://www.purdue.edu/stutteringproject/

The above quotes are taken from the following article: Medical News Today