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Children who Stutter have Normal Social Development

Aug 26, 2013 08:44 AM EDT

Stuttering is neither a sign of poor brain development nor a warning for future emotional problems. A new study from Australia has found that preschool kids who stutter may actually do better at school, develop better language and non-verbal skills and aren't as distressed as previously thought.

Stuttering is a problem that affects a person's flow of speech. The condition is quite common in young children and affects boys more than girls. Most children outgrow the condition. Stuttering affects 1 percent of all adults in the U.S.

The study was conducted by researchers at University of Melbourne, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and The University of Sydney and included over 1600 children. The study participants were followed from birth to about the time when they were four years old. In this study group, about 11 percent stuttered while talking.

The study found that at four years, children who stuttered had good language skills and non-verbal abilities. There were also no signs of emotional distress in these children.

Researchers said that parents of such children can take the "wait and watch method" before beginning any treatment.

"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. It may be that for many children treatment could be deferred slightly further," Professor Sheena Reilly, lead researcher of the study, said in a news release.

Treatments for stuttering include speech therapy, psychological counselling and electronic devices.

"Treatment is effective but is intensive and expensive, this watchful recommendation would therefore help target allocation of scarce resources to the small number of children who do not resolve and experience adverse outcomes, secure in the knowledge that delaying treatment for a year or slightly longer has been shown not to compromise treatment efficacy."

The study is published in the journal Pediatrics.                                                                  

The National Stuttering Association and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association have more information about stuttering.

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