Did you know that stuttering is a neurological/motor problem, and is not caused, nor usually triggered, by psychological issues? Despite years of research, the actual causes remain a mystery, however it tends to run in families, and more boys are afflicted than girls.
For many years stuttering was treated as an emotional disorder, however, it is now known that the affliction gives rise to emotional disorders, such as social anxiety, in many sufferers, rather than having a causal relationship with it. Today, best practice treatments have been developed that appear to eradicate stuttered speech in young children. Moreover, these treatments are conceptually simple, and based on behavioral premises. Long-distance treatments administered over the telephone have even been successful for remotely situated children. Preschool-age children love to engage in the activities that have been developed, most of which can ultimately be administered by parents.
About 5% of children will start to stutter around the ages of three or four. It tends to coincide with the beginning of sentence formation and the need for prosody. However, some will recover spontaneously—more girls than boys—usually soon after onset.
When I went to school in the fifties and sixties, there was always at least one child who stuttered in most schools. Today, children who stutter badly are very rare in this country, thanks to the team at the University of Sydney. The Australian Stuttering Research Centre, based at Cumberland College, is a world leader in the field of evidence-based treatments for stuttering.
At the ASRC, the Lidcombe Method is the favoured approach to treating children who stutter, while adolescents and adults follow what is called the Camperdown Program. The older the client, the more likely that their stuttering has become intransigent, requiring them to follow a more control-based approach, called Prolonged Speech.
The main message to parents of children who stutter is to seek out a qualified speech pathologist and get advice on best practices.