A new study, just published online in Pediatrics, has found that more preschool children stutter than previous studies found, but that it's not likely to have an impact on a child's temperament or social skills.
The study, done in Australia, found that 11 percent of children began stuttering by age 4, while previous studies found that number to be 5 or 6 percent, says Charley Adams, Ph.D., a clinical assistant professor and speech pathologist at the University of South Carolina.
"I think what this study is reinforcing is reminding us that, at least in terms of preschool, if you send your four- or five-year-old to preschool you don't need to worry about them being teased if they're stuttering, because chances are the other kids either won't notice it or, if they do notice it, they're not going to care," Adams says.
But he says early therapy is much more successful at treating stuttering, so if a parent thinks a child is stuttering, she should take him to a speech pathologist who's got experience treating stuttering.
Anywhere from 50 to 75 percent of children who stutter will recover on their own without therapy, he says. "Well, if you turn that statistic upside-down, that tells you that 25 to 50 percent are not going to recover without some kind of intervention, and I don't think that's a chance most parents would want to take," he says.
His colleague, Al Montgomery, Ph.D., is a stutterer who got treatment after high school. "If I was saying some word, I'd g-g-g-g-g-g-g-g-g-get stuck, like that," he says.
So how does a parent know whether to be concerned? Montgomery says, "Many kids, they get excited. 'Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! Mommy! Can, can I...' That's not stuttering; just excited. The kid with the tighter blocks, or repeats really the first part of a word, like th-th-th-th-th-th-this; that's a worse sign."
Adams says besides therapy, he recommends group support. The National Stuttering Association has local chapters that provide that group support. You can get more information on the NSA website here.
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