2-3 years 3-4 years 4-5 years Age at Initial Visit
Figure 1. Mean length of utterance, compared with normative expectations, for children whose stuttering persists or recovers. (From Watkins, R. V., Yairi, E., and Ambrose, N. G. . Early childhood stuttering: III. Initial status of expressive language abilities. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 42, 1125-1135. Reproduced with permission.)
in young children who stutter. More than a decade ago, Nippold (1990) reported that there was no compelling evidence that children who stuttered had a higher rate of language learning difficulties than the general population. In 2001, Miles and Ratner reported the performance of a group of young children who stuttered on a range of expressive and receptive language measures; the children in their sample scored at or slightly above the average level of performance on every reported measure (i.e., the group scored at or above a percentile rank of 50 or at or above a standard score of 100 on the measures used). Rommel and colleages (1999) in Germany reported that preschool-age participants who stuttered had language skills at or above age expectations. Anderson and Conture (2000) also reported language scores at or above average for a group of children who stuttered.
In light of these findings, there is little empirical support for the hypothesis that language development and stuttering are linked to a common, underlying communication difficulty, at least in any significant number of young children. On closer examination of the research literature, methodological issues appear that may account for the view that children who stutter frequently have concomitant language difficulties. Several early studies of language ability in young children who stuttered did not consider socioeconomic status, potentially comparing young children who stuttered and were from lower or middle-income backgrounds with typically developing youngsters from university-based families (see Ratner, 1997). Furthermore, several past studies of language ability in young children who stuttered did not evaluate the children's skills in light of normative expectations. Other studies reported higher than expected rates of concomitant language disabilities in young children who stuttered but evaluated children long after stuttering onset, or included children of very different ages. When relations between language ability and stuttering are examined long after stuttering onset, children may well have learned to adapt their expressive language in various ways in order to limit or reduce stuttering events. Such studies may be interesting, but they ask very different questions from those addressed by investigations of language skills near the onset of stuttering. Any or all of these methodological choices could have considerable impact on findings pertaining to patterns and pathways of language acquisition in youngsters who stutter, and all could be in the direction that predict a less favorable performance for children who stutter in comparison with typically developing children.
In general, there is a growing consensus that language development is not particularly vulnerable in young children who stutter. Continued study of language strengths or challenges in conjunction with stuttering may reveal developmental asynchronies (e.g., perhaps early precocious language skill is a particular risk factor for stuttering, or perhaps accelerated language development in one domain, such as syntax or semantics, creates difficulties with fluency when proficiencies in other domains, such as motoric abilities, are less sophisticated). These possibilities await empirical study and will require detailed linguistic analyses to evaluate.
Was this article helpful?
Are You Suffering From Social Withdrawal? Do People Shun Or Ostracize You Because You Have A Hard Time Getting Some Of Your Words Out? Or Does Your Child Get Teased At School Because They Stutter And Cant Speak Like Everyone Else? If you have answered yes to any of the above, then you are in the tiny percentage of people that stutter.