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Early stuttering intervention: speaking is living


9 April 2013

Stuttering typically starts in two to three year old children and can hinder educational and occupational success, also causing serious psychological problems later in life, says Professor Mark Onslow (left).
Stuttering typically starts in two to three year old children and can hinder educational and occupational success, also causing serious psychological problems later in life, says Professor Mark Onslow (left).

An online treatment program for children who stutter is currently being developed by Faculty of Health Sciences researchers at the University of Sydney.

Professor Mark Onslow who leads a team dedicated to solving the mysteries of stuttering says early intervention is crucial and encourages parents to seek help at the first sign of their toddler stuttering.

Stuttering typically starts in two to three year old children and can hinder educational and occupational success also causing serious psychological problems later in life states Professor Onslow.

"Untreated stuttering can lead to a lifetime of social anxiety and social phobia. Social phobia is a constant fear of social humiliation and embarrassment," says Professor Onslow.

He says that early intervention is the best way of getting rid of stuttering for young children, using behaviour modification. Professor Onslow believes that the future of early intervention lies with an online treatment program.

"I hope that one day many families who need assistance with a stuttering child can access an online treatment program and children won't have to go to a clinic. In cases where this is not enough, a speech pathologist could treat the child using Skype or a similar program."

The director of the Australian Stuttering Research Centre (ASRC) says despite decades of research the reasons behind why people stutter remain unknown.

"We are leaning toward understanding stuttering as a problem with neural speech processing. People who stutter do not organise their muscles to get their speech out as well as others," says Professor Onslow.

During his free public lecture for Sydney Ideas, the ASRC director will speak about early stuttering intervention and will be joined by guest speakers who have experienced the debilitating consequences of the disorder for themselves and their children.

Recent research undertaken by ASRC has also shown a negative relationship between stuttering severity and educational attainment. In other words says Professor Onslow, the more severe your stuttering the less likely you are to attain the educational qualifications you want. That research has prompted further calls for early intervention and treatment for pre-school and school age children.

The ASRC is a world leader in stuttering research, widely recognised for its work in speech pathology. The centre provides support to individuals who stutter and their families.


Event details

What: Early stuttering intervention: speaking is living, a Sydney Ideas event

When: 6 to 7.30pm, Wednesday 17 April

Where: Foyer, New Law Building, Camperdown Campus

Cost: Free

Book now online 


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Media enquiries: Victoria Hollick, 9351 2579, 0401 711 361, victoria.hollick@sydney.edu.au