Stuttering and Brain Development

Seek Early Treatment for Stuttering

StutteringChildren who stutter have less grey matter in regions of the brain that is responsible for speech production.[1] Stuttering is often recognized between ages two and five, and it is important to seek treatment early.1

Stuttering occurs in five percent of children, and often goes untreated for a period of time, frequently until the child begins school. Previous research MRI scans may not be as accurate as they were completed after the child had been stuttering for years, making it difficult to state whether the brain structure and functioning differences were there from the beginning or whether they were linked to the time spent coping with the speech disorder.1

A Study of Stuttering

Executive Director of the Institute for Stuttering Treatment and Research at the University of Alberta, Deryk Beal, Ph.D., conducted a study of 28 children, ranging from five to 12 years old.1 Half of the children were diagnosed with stuttering, while the other half served as a control.1

According to Beal, children who stutter showed that the inferior frontal gyrus region of the brain developed abnormally.1 That part of the brain controls articulatory coding, meaning it takes information our brain understands about language and sounds, coding it into speech movements.1 Therefore, abnormal or poor development of the inferior frontal gyrus region of the brain hinders language processing.1

When a child stutters, there are repetitions of the first sounds or syllables in a word, as well as prolongation of sounds in a word.1 It is a speech-motor-control issue.1 Treatment is often delivered with limitation of the speech system in mind, and is often very effective.1

What is Stuttering Treatment?

It is important for a child who stutters to undergo early assessment and treatment, in order to avoid the stuttering from interfering with their social and emotional development.[2] The earlier the treatment, the better the results.2 With therapy, the child will learn to handle their stuttering through developing fluency skills that are related to voice initiation, articulation, speech rate, and breathing.2 Also, children will learn how to cope with any negative feelings and avoidances they may have related to their stuttering.2 As teasing is often a great concern, family-based programs are a good way to help your child and your family address this issue.2 Often, the child will participate in two 30 to 60 minute sessions weekly for several months.2 Paired with home practice and parent training, remission is possible.2

These results serve as the first step towards research regarding how grey matter volumes are influenced by stuttering treatment.1 Beal’s research also increased the understanding about motor-sequence learning differences between children who stutter and those who do not.1 The more research is done regarding motor learning in children who stutter, treatment can be morphed more effectively.1

[1] Wood, J. (2013, October 13). Brain Development Appears to Differ in Children Who Stutter. Psych Central. Retrieved October 14, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2013/10/13/brain-development-appears-to-differ-in-children-who-stutter/60628.html

[2] Therapy. (n.d.). University of Alberta: Institue for Stuttering Treatment and Research. Retrieved October 14, 2013, from http://www.istar.ualberta.ca/Programs/StutteringTherapy/Therapy.aspx

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