A follow up study of fifty stutterers who were diagnosed at a speech clinic before the age of eight



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The present follow up study was an effort to make as comprehensive a study as possible of the problem of stuttering in young children. Causative, maintaining and remedial factors were studied and analyses and comparisons were made. Answers to two basic questions were sought. They were, (1) how effective was the treatment program in alleviating the problem of stuttering and (2) which factors evaluated in this study seem to be related to the improvement sent of the stuttering problem In the fifty cases? The method chosen was a questionnaire Interview with the mothers of fifty stuttering children diagnosed before the age of eight at a speech clinic. The children studied were forty-one boys and nine girls ranging in age at the time of their first diagnosis by the clinic from three years, one month to seven years, ten months. A careful comparison of the data observed in this study with other studies resulted in very close agreement in all areas which were compared, with the exception of the information on handedness. This fact tends to strengthen the study in all areas of inquiry. While no definite hypothesis on the etiology of stuttering was postulated at the beginning of the study, certain interesting factors were noted- (1) a statistically significant number of the subjects were somewhat delayed in saying their first word (18 per cent), (2) the subjects studied had a high incidence of other speech problems (43 per cent), (3) other handicaps (24 per cent) may serve as possible sources of the stuttering problem and (4) the stutterer is more likely to be the first born, least likely to be the middle child. Nine factors were found to be associated with the improvement of the stuttering. They were- (1) neither too early nor too late development of the first word stage, (2) less articulation and other speech problems, (3) fever handicaps, (4) higher environment improvement scores, (5) early development of the problem, (6) only simple repetitions as the stuttering symptom, (7) an early peak of severity, (8) a middle or younger position In the family, and (9) receiving appropriate therapy. Those factors which seemed to be associated with the continuance of the problem were: (1) too early development of the first word stage, (2) a lack of an adequate vocabulary, (3) more articulation and other speech problems, (4) more permanent handicaps, (5) being the first born, (6) low environment improvement scores, (7) late onset of stuttering, (9) blocking evidence at time of clinical diagnosis and (9) a severity peak between nine and ten years. The type of therapy chosen for each child appears to be of primary importance. In general, the more severe stutterers responded much better to direct therapy than to parent counseling therapy. The most interesting insights developing out of this study were the many indications that the phenomena generally known as stuttering may take two very different forms. One form is that so ably described by Johnson as "existing in the parent’s ear." This type seems to respond to parent counseling and is easily overcome. The other form is less definable, but no less real. It tends to be more of a real speech problem and much more difficult to deal with. The four basic findings of this study were- (1) stuttering appears in this study to be a dichotomy, (2) there are certain measurable differences between those stutterers who improved and those who did not, (3) a consideration of the causes of stuttering should be approached from an eclectic point, of view, as no one predominant causative factor was evident in the fifty cases studied, and (4) the present methods of parent counseling and direct therapy are effective when suited to the degree of severity of the individual case.



Stuttering in children