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Stammering treatment effective during pre-school

Stammering should be treated before a child starts school to improve the speech disorder that affects about 5 percent of youngsters.

Stammering treatment effective during pre-school

Stammering should be treated before a child starts school to improve the speech disorder that affects about 5 percent of youngsters. Stammering may result from a variety of causes, including genetics, signalling problems between the brain, nerves and muscles, and developmental difficulties. Stuttering, or stammering, usually begins at the age of three or four years. Boys are three times more likely to suffer from the problem. There is no cure for the condition but researchers from the Australian Stuttering Research Centre at the University of Sydney developed and evaluated an early treatment programme, called the Lidcombe programme to treat stammering. The programme, which is named after a Sydney suburb, is a behavioural treatment for young children and is administered by a parent with guidance from a speech pathologist. The parent conducts the treatments and learns to measure the child's stammering on a 10-point scale. During weekly visits the speech pathologist examines the progress. Once the stammering has disappeared or vastly diminished, the second stage of the programme, which aims to maintain the improvement for a year, begins. The researching team evaluated the programme in a study involving 54 children. Twenty-nine received the treatment and 25 children acted as a control group. Only 15 percent of the youngsters in the control group attained a minimal amount of stammering, compared with 77 percent of those who had the treatment. Some children recover naturally from stammering but the researchers said that identifying them is difficult and starting treatment in the pre-school years seems to be most effective. If the disorder persists into the school age years a child is exposed to unacceptable risk of experiencing the disabling effects of chronic and intractable stuttering throughout life. It was found that after nine months, the reduction of stammering in the Lidcombe programme group was significantly and clinically greater than natural recovery.
British Medical Journal,
September 2005
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