We’ve got some great evidence-based treatments for children who stutter that have been proven by clinical trials to work for pre-schoolers and school-age children.
The treatment with the best evidence at the moment is called the Lidcombe Program, after the Sydney suburb in which it was developed by researchers from Sydney University. The Lidcombe Program has been shown to give pre-school children who stutter a 7-8 times better chance of recovery than if we do nothing and wait.
There are some other treatments supported by promising research results. For example, you might have heard of syllable-timed speech, also known as the Westmead Program or “robot talking”, which seems to work well for pre-schoolers who complete the treatment.
What is the Lidcombe Program?
The Lidcombe Program is simple in theory, although it does require hard work and commitment from parents and children, including practising every day.
The Lidcombe Program is done by parents at home, and works directly on a child’s stuttering. (We don’t ignore it which used to be a common approach.) First, a speech pathologist will train you to do it, and then help you and your child get the most out of it. Our aim is to get rid or almost get rid of your child’s stuttering – not just in the clinic, but in the real world – and to keep it that way.
The main idea of the Lidcombe Program is that we can help reduce a child’s stuttering by using what are called “verbal contingencies”. In plain English this means that you give your child lots of positive feedback/praise when she is speaking smoothly – without stuttering – and, much less often, gently ask her to try again when she definitely stutters.
We recommend the Lidcombe Program for most young children who stutter because:
- the Lidcombe Program has the most evidence, including two independent, replicated phase III randomised controlled trials (Jones et al., 2005, Latterman et al., 2008 and O’Brian & Onslow, 2011);
- we can track a child’s progress against what others have achieved (benchmarks), and evaluate whether we need to make changes to therapy;
- it works: studies show the Lidcombe Program has reduced stuttering by almost 80% (Jones, 2005); and
- it’s safe.
Now, no stuttering therapy is perfect – for example, we don’t know why the Lidcombe Program works or even which bits of it work! Sometimes after treatment, the child’s stuttering comes back. It can be hard to stay motivated, particularly if you have a setback. It’s the speech pathologist’s job to make it as easy as possible for you and your child, and to keep you focused on the big picture.
- The Lidcombe Program for stuttering: my 10 favourite therapy activities
- Lidcombe Program Stuttering Activities: Volume 2 (10 low-prep printable activities for face-to-face and Skype therapy)
- Stuttering treatments: what works for whom? An evidence update
- My child stutters. Is it because he’s shy? sensitive? hyper?
- Why does the Lidcombe Program for childhood stuttering work: a case of “words will never hurt me”?
- Now you can get treatment for your child’s stuttering without all those clinic visits
- The more the merrier? New study on Lidcombe Program group therapy for children
- The Lidcombe Program Social Story: “Sometimes my speech is bumpy – but I’m practising every day to talk smoothly!”
- The Westmead Program for children who stutter
- My school-age child stutters. What should I do?
- Parent dilemma: what to do when your child stutters and has speech sound problems – research update