Stuttering treatments for children

Researchers are exploring new ways to improve treatment for children who stutter

La Trobe researchers, Dr Shane Erickson and Dr Kate Bridgman, are exploring new ways to improve treatment for children who stutter – a speech disorder that disrupts fluency and the flow of speech.

Developing speech-language pathologists’ confidence and competence

“The onset of stuttering typically occurs between two and four years of age, and by the time all children reach the age of four, research has shown that approximately 11% will have experienced stuttering,” says Dr Erickson.

“Stuttering can cause a child quite significant distress, and there is the potential for long term negative effects, so early intervention is crucial.”

Effective treatments are available, but speech-language pathologists internationally report that implementing treatment is challenging due to a range of clinician, client and clinical context factors.

“Establishing these factors in an Australian context could help us to address barriers preventing children from receiving effective stuttering treatment,” says Dr Erickson.

“Research has also found that speech-language pathologists lack confidence working with children who stutter, however, the reasons for this are not well understood and we aim to address this as part of our research.”

“It is hoped that our findings will inform the development of professional development workshops for speech-language pathologists who work with children who stutter, with a particular focus on knowledge and skill development that can enhance clinician self-efficacy.”

“We also believe that these findings can help to inform the training of speech-language pathologists in tertiary courses to ensure they have the required skills to enter the profession and provide effective intervention for children who stutter.”

Delivering stuttering treatment via telepractice

“In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, speech-language pathologists have embraced telepractice. Yet, stuttering researchers have been investigating the use of telepractice to deliver paediatric services for more than 15 years,” says Dr Bridgman.

This research has shown that a well-established treatment approach called the ‘Lidcombe Program’ can be successfully delivered to children using internet-based videoconferencing platforms. However, there has been no published evidence regarding the delivery of the Lidcombe Program via telepractice within a primary school setting.

“Over the past two years Dr Shane Erickson and I have partnered with speech-language pathologists from Melbourne Archdiocese Catholic Schools to develop and evaluate a telepractice stuttering service using the Lidcombe Program,” says Dr Bridgman.

“We also implemented a unique group telesupervision model to support the speech-language pathologists delivering treatment so we could gather data about the supervisee’s expectations, experiences and attitudes.”

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