Stuttering Kids Score Better on Tests

No evidence it leads to developmental problems

Children Shutter

Children Shutter

When a young child starts to stutter, parents may be worried that the speech affectation is a sign of, or a precursor to, a developmental disorder.

However, a new study in the journal Pediatrics indicates that kids who stutter scores the same or higher than their non-stuttering peers in language, cognitive and temperament assessments.

"Stuttering onset is relatively common but parents can be reassured that developmental stuttering is not associated with poorer outcome in the preschool years at least," study author Sheena Reilly, from the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute in Australia, told Reuters Health.

Scientists conducting the study found that about 11 percent of preschoolers stutter, much higher than the prevailing estimate of 5 percent based on previous studies. The researchers said this could be because they began following their child participants very early in life.

The Australia-based study cohort included 1,600 children from the Melbourne area whose mothers completed regular questionnaires starting when their children were eight months old. When they were four years old, the kids were assessed on a range of language and behavior metrics.

The mothers in the study were told to contact researchers if their child began to exhibit signs of a stutter. These calls were followed up by a speech pathologist that provided a proper diagnosis of the child.

At the four-year assessment window, more than 180 of the study children had been diagnosed with a stutter. Regular follow-up visits with 140 of these children showed only nine no longer had their stutter one year later.

While some children had trouble shaking their speech affectation, kids who stuttered scored 5.5 points higher on average than their non-affected peers on language tests and 2.6 points higher on non-verbal tests – both of which were scored out of 100. All of the kids in the study scored comparably on behavioral assessments.

In their conclusion, the study authors said the higher scores could either be the result of a stutter or evidence that some kids were developing language skills at an accelerated pace.

"This is a period in which a child's motor speech system is challenged to keep pace with the phenomenal rate of language acquisition," they wrote.

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