Stuttering and stammering over words is not exactly an uncommon phenomenon in preschool children. However, as with all parents who are concerned for the well being of their little ones, many worry that these speech problems could then translate to behavioral and social issues. A new study reveals stuttering children are not likely to suffer any undesirable effects from their speech-related woes, and even goes so far as to suggest stutterers may be more intelligent than their non-stuttering counterparts.
Many have, rightly or wrongly, understood stuttering to be a significant issue in young children, molding their childhood development and hindering success in academia; arguably, this could then result in a knock-on impact on a child’s potential career path. A number of other studies have suggested stuttering could also lead to long-term psycho-social issues.
The characteristic signs of stuttering are often confused by many, and extends to the following examples, as outlined within the latest research publication:
- Repetition of words or syllables (e.g. “can-can-can-I go?”)
- Prolonging or over pronouncing words (e.g. “caaaaaaaaaaan I go?”)
- Demonstrate gaps in speech where no words are uttered
During a previous research study, the group established that a significant proportion of their Australian population-based sample had developed stuttering by as early as three years of age.
The researchers stress the importance of early intervention with young, persistent stutterers, describing assistance as “efficacious and highly desirable.” When considering the logistical and financial implications of extending aid to these children, the group explain how it could be difficult and unnecessary. To begin with, there aren’t the healthcare resources or finances available to tackle such numbers of young stutterers and, secondly, many of these children will recover quite naturally without the need for any specialist help or intervention. However, prior to these latest findings, stuttering children were not found to be more intelligent than their non-stuttering peers.
Uploaded Monday, in Pediatrics journal, scientists sought to quantify any adverse social or emotional effects in children who had experienced a history of stuttering. A sample of 1,619 Australian infants between the ages of 7.5 to 10 months were selected from varying socioeconomic backgrounds. The infants’ parents were provided with a fridge magnet, characterizing and explaining stuttering, alongside a contact telephone number. If a parent considered they had a stuttering child, they would phone a speech pathologist who would then begin assessing the child during a face-to-face consultation.
The group documented the incidence and severity of the condition’s onset, using a special scale. A speech pathologist would then attend monthly home visits for each stuttering child, over a period of a year, and then noted whether the child had “recovered.”
The results were contrary to popular belief, with the researchers finding no unfavorable influence on the mental health of stuttering children. Quite incredibly, the group claims to have seen a better cognitive display in recovered stutterers:
“… these children showed little evidence of harm to their mental health, temperament, or psychosocial health-related quality of life and on average displayed better receptive and expressive language and nonverbal intelligence at outcome than their nonstuttering counterparts.”
In explaining this, the authors suggested that stuttering could be a byproduct of rapid language development, between the ages of two and four, with less capable children experiencing a delay in their speech attempts.
According to USA Today, Joseph Donaher, working for the Center for Childhood Communication at hospital in Philadelphia, suggested these results could assuage parent’s fears over the issue of stuttering:
“Reports like this help clinicians make the case that some stuttering, especially for a short period of time, doesn’t mean that your child is going to be negatively impacted in the future.”
The cohort of scientists caution against parents attempting to treat their stuttering children too early, as the procedure is as intensive as it is expensive. Alternatively, they recommend a vigilant “watchful waiting” approach, so as to ensure resources remain targeted at those who are most in need. And, if the conclusions of this latest study are anything to go by, your stuttering child might actually be more intelligent than his or her non-stuttering friends.
By: James Fenner