Reactions to stuttering in early childhood

Parents of young children who stutter may be told that their child might “outgrow” stuttering as he/she gets older. For these parents, do the reactions of other people to their child’s speech influence their decision to cross the bridge from waiting for the child to outgrow it and pursuing the necessary actions to intervene? What is typically the biggest influencing factor in this decision, and how are children typically affected by their parents’ primary concerns?

 

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Reactions to stuttering in early childhood — 4 Comments

  1. Hi,
    You raise interesting questions. I’m not sure I can accurately answer it all, but will tell you what I have experienced about influencing factors for beginning treatment with younger children. Often I have had parents express that they want to address stuttering before the child transitions to kindergarten. If they have waited, often it seems that as the child gets closer to approaching kindergarten, they are moving from waiting to taking action. I’m sure others will have more to add!

  2. I am a bit confused by your question. I typically don’t find that parents rely on other people’s reactions to their child to seek help – they either are concerned or see that their child is concerned about his/her speech. Even children as young as 2 may reveal, either verbally (“I can’t” after getting stuck and giving up on saying something) or through tension (vocally, physically), that they are uncomfortable or struggling with speaking. Parents do have access to quite a bit of info about stuttering these days. I rarely find parents mistaking more typical disfluency for stuttering, since many sites such as SFA provide video exemplars of behaviors of concern. When I discuss the parents’ concerns or fears for their child, people’s reactions are often among their fears for the child’s development, but not a reason why they seek me out.

  3. I hope I will be able to answer your question partly by referring to the results of a study that was conducted in 2015 by an international team of colleagues from Europe and North America (Austria, Poland, Slovakia, and the USA). This survey was dedicated to recognizing the opinions of parents’ of young children who stutter and of early intervention in stuttering (Koltay et al. 2016). We asked parents about the age at which children had received consultation or treatment (and if it was postponed – what was the reason for it). We also recognized what kind of feelings they had due to the onset of stuttering in their child, as well as their level and sources of knowledge about stuttering. Most respondents answered that they were the first persons who identified the first symptoms of stuttering in their child. On average children were placed in consultation at the age of about 5 years. However, many parents indicated that they observed the first symptoms of stuttering earlier. This delay in contact with the specialist was explained by parents; they were convinced that the child would outgrow stuttering. In addition, very frequently pediatricians, teachers or even some SLPs advised parents not to seek consultation close to the stuttering onset. According to these advisors stuttering will pass with age. Some respondents pointed out that they felt fear and guilt, and also a lack of knowledge about what they should do in regard to their child’s stuttering. We also asked where parents obtained information about stuttering. Their responses had shown the main resources of knowledge about stuttering were the SLPs and information from the Internet, and less often from physicians and teachers. Many respondents reported that learning about stuttering had an impact on the change in their feelings. They noticed having a more optimistic perception of their child’s problem once they had gained some knowledge about stuttering etiology and possible forms of stuttering intervention. Their level of fear and sense of guilt were reduced due to becoming more educated in stuttering. A practical result of this study was the creation of an international preventive poster (with parts in English, Spanish, German, Polish, Slovakian and Swedish). The aim of this poster is to recommend the need for early intervention in stuttering. The poster is available at the website of the International Conference on Logopedics at the University of Silesia: Fluency Disorders: Theory and Practice: http://www.konferencja-zpm.edu.pl/pl/media-2/

    Katarzyna Węsierska

  4. Hi, I work mostly with school-age students but may have something to add here. I don’t know to what extent the reactions of other people to a child’s stuttering influence parental decisions about therapy. I haven’t seen any data on this. However, we do know that about 80% of young children who stutter – the most recent data I’ve seen say 86% – appear to outgrow stuttering. These numbers can be confusing for parents. We have a big role to play in helping parents understand their individual child’s risk factors for persistent stuttering, e.g.,

    1. Family history of persistent stuttering
    2. Male
    3. Trends of fluency pattern (flat or increased in frequency)
    4. Persistence 6 to 12 months post onset
    5. Age at onset after 3-1/2 years
    6. Repetitions of 2+ units; quicker tempo
    7. Prolongations/blocks

    Helping parents understand such risk factors can help them make the best decisions for their child. Hope this is helpful. Best,

    Rob Dellinger