Stuttering: What is the Natural History?

Professor Sheena Reilly PhD FASSA Associate Director, Clinical and Public Health Research Murdoch Childrens Research Institute Professor of Speech Pathology Department of Paediatrics, University of Melbourne Royal Children’s Hospital Flemington Road Parkville Victoria 3052 AustraliaProfessor Sheena Reilly PhD FASSA
Associate Director, Clinical and Public Health Research
Murdoch Childrens Research Institute
Professor of Speech Pathology
Department of Paediatrics, University of Melbourne
Royal Children’s Hospital
Flemington Road Parkville Victoria 3052 Australia


MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings of the study?

Prof. Reilly: Stuttering was more common than previously thought. The cumulative incidence of stuttering by four years old was 11%, which is more than twice what has previously been reported. Developmental stuttering was associated with better language development, non-verbal skills with no identifiable effect on the child’s mental health or temperament by four years of age.

MedicalResearch.com: Were any of the findings unexpected?

Prof. Reilly: The two main findings that surpassed us were that so many in our study of over 1600 children, started to stutter (11%) by 4 years of age, yet very few of these had recovered in the first 12 months after onset.
We were also surprised to find the children who had stuttered had better receptive and expressive language skills.

MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Prof. Reilly: Stuttering is very common in preschoolers. Children who stutter in the preschool years perform well in many other developmental domains during this time.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Prof. Reilly: First it would be great for someone to replicate our findings and second our goal is to see if we can determine whether there are factors that help predict whether  children recover from or persist with stuttering

Lead researcher, Professor Sheena Reilly said parents could be happy in knowing that they can take a ‘watch and wait’ approach to their child’s stuttering. “Current best practice recommends waiting for 12 months before commencing treatment, unless the child is distressed, there is parental concern, or the child becomes reluctant to communicate. on these findings there wasn’t any evidence that watching and waiting would do any  harm to their child’s language skills or social and emotional development” she said.

Due to the low rates of recovery in the study, researchers were unable to determine what predicts which kids will recover from stuttering, but say this will be the focus of research moving forward

Citation:

Natural History of Stuttering to 4 Years of Age: A Prospective Community-Based Study
Sheena Reilly, Mark Onslow, Ann Packman, Eileen Cini, Laura Conway, Obioha C. Ukoumunne, Edith L. Bavin, Margot Prior, Patricia Eadie, Susan Block, and Melissa Wake

Pediatrics peds.2012-3067; published ahead of print August 26, 2013, doi:10.1542/peds.2012-3067