“What do you feel causes stuttering, and why?” This was a favorite question of one of our administrators when interviewing speech-language pathologist candidates. It is a question that does not have a clear answer. However, the possible answers are changing, due to new research. Work by Dr. Tony Monaco has led to the identification of a specific gene on chromosome seven necessary for correct speech production. Some of the research being conducted focuses on two extended families in the Republic of Cameroon. Almost half of the family members in three generations stutter past young childhood.
Other research by Dr. Anne Foundas, M.D. focuses on the brain and how certain differences in the brain may put children at risk for stuttering. Some of these results suggest that there are certain features in the brain that may put some individuals at risk. These features are more common in men vs. women, and with right vs. left-handers. Continued research may lead to specific behavior or medical treatments for individuals who stutter, or who are at risk of developing stuttering behaviors.
The Stuttering Foundation of America has recently published a new risk factor chart. Risk Factors include:
Family history: If a family member of a child who is stuttering outgrew stuttering as a child, there is less risk for the young child to continue stuttering. If a family member continues to stutter, it may be more difficult for that child to develop normal fluency skills
Age at onset: If a child begins to stutter before the age of three and a half, he or she is more likely to outgrow stuttering.
Time since onset: If a child has been stuttering for more than six months, he or she may not outgrow the stuttering behaviors on their own. Seventy-five to eighty-five percent of all young children who begin stuttering will stop within 12 to 24 months.
Gender: Girls are more likely to outgrow stuttering than boys.
Other speech and language factors: Children who speak with few sound errors are more likely to outgrow stuttering than a child with many speech sound errors.
While research continues to investigate possible and probable causes for stuttering, Area Education Agency 267 speech-language pathologists in the schools continue to provide services for children and their families. If you have concerns about your child, contact AEA 267 or your school speech-language pathologist at 1-800-542-8375 (Cedar Falls area), 1-800-392-6640 (Clear Lake area), or 1-800-735-1539 (Marshalltown office).
Connie Scherber, CCC-SP is a Discipline Facilitator/Speech-Language Pathologist with Area Education Agency 267, based out of Clear Lake. Connie can be reached at 1-800-392-6640 for additional information. Area Education Agency 267 serves over 66,000 students. In addition, over 5,000 educators rely on AEA 267 for services in special education, school technology, media, and instructional/curriculum support. The agency’s service area reaches 18 counties and nearly 9,000 square miles.