Language development in young children who stutter
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusNo attached file available
© 2015 Dr. Amy Jacqueline Watts
Stuttering typically emerges at the same time as children are experiencing rapid development in their language. It is not surprising therefore that there is substantial interest in the interface between stuttering and language. Explanations for stuttering that utilise a linguistic framework are prominent in the theoretical literature, and there are numerous empirical studies focused upon understanding the potential relationship between stuttering and language development. Yet, agreement about the precise nature of this relationship does not exist. This research is focused upon the emergence of stuttering and language development in young children. The study is embedded within two pre-existing prospective longitudinal studies; the Early Language in Victoria Study (ELVS) investigating language development in a large community sample of children; and the ELVS-Stuttering study, a nested study investigating the onset and progression of stuttering. Utilising data collected within the framework of these two studies, this study has three parts. Part 1 involves a comparison of the early communication and language skills of children who started to stutter and children who did not start to stutter from ages 2 to 5 years. Part 2 focuses on a sub-sample of the children who started to stutter, describing their stuttering and language behaviours during the first 12 months after stuttering onset. This involved concurrent examination of stuttering behaviours and stuttering severity, and a range of global indicators of expressive language proficiency. Part 3 examines the association between variables related to stuttering (e.g. family history of stuttering, severity, age of onset, stuttering behaviours) and two global indicators of language ability (length of utterances, and grammatical complexity), again focusing upon a sub-sample of children who started to stutter. Overall, results indicate that children who stutter, as a group, demonstrate expressive language skills that are consistent with, and sometimes exceeding, developmental expectations. Part 1 revealed findings indicating that children who have stuttered demonstrate stronger language skills than children who have not stuttered on each of the communication and language outcomes measured. Findings from Part 2 indicated that, in the first 12 months after the report of stuttering onset, the subgroup of children who stutter demonstrated language skills that are consistent with developmental expectations, and when compared to available age-referenced data they in fact exceed expectations. Part 3 revealed a weak association between stuttering characteristics and language proficiency in the first 12 months following the report of stuttering onset. Although some associations were statistically significant, the corresponding regression coefficients tended to be small and explained very little of the variability in the language outcomes measured. Overall there was no evidence of language development being impacted by the onset or progression of stuttering in the cohort of children examined in this study. This study offers an unprecedented insight into the early stuttering and language development of a large community cohort of children who stutter. The findings provide clarification concerning the language-stuttering connection, contributing to a resolution to the lack of consensus in this area. Further research involving rigorous examination of language ability and language use in representative cohorts of children who stutter, with a particular focus on children whose stuttering is moderate-to-severe and persists into the school years, is recommended.
Keywordsstuttering; language development; children
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