I’v read many places that it’s important to start stuttering treatment early – as early as possible after onset. My problem is that all the references to evidence meant to support this does not tell me that the success rate/improvevement is higher when starting early, but instead things like:
1) Early treatment (like the Lidcombe program) helps
2) There is a recovery dip after 10-15 months (Yairi et al, who did not induce any training, but just observed stutterers), meaning that if you haven’t improved much after about 15 months after stuttering onset you are less likely to recover.
3) There are different treatments for young and more adult stutterers (one study with four subjects claims – without really studying it – that it takes less time to get an effect with younger children, but this is quite weak evidence)
4) No reason to believe that it is harmful to start with an early treatment (which means that improving early is better, since it reduces a handicap)
I suspect that the reason for believing in the importance of early treatment is the plasticity of the brain, which is better the younger you are. But if increased plasticity is essential for stuttering treatment, I wonder why the few studies (three in total) I find on this question does not find any effect of earlier treatment.
So, am I missing something here – or is it just not documented (rather the opposite) that early treatment is important for the success of stuttering treatment?
NB: If it really is a big decrease in success rate when waiting, what is currently done is really bad and there should be changes in the prioritisation of SLP resources. Just to avoid misunderstandings, I wouldn’t recommend “wait and see” for you young children, since there are other negative potential implications of a childhood stutter.
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