University of Melbourne studies preschoolers’ stuttering

Stuttering may be more common than previously thought, but preschool stutterers fair better than first thought, a study by the University of Melbourne, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and the University of Sydney has found.

University of Melbourne Speech Pathology School
Find out more about Melbourne Speech Pathology School

A study of  more than 1,600 children, which followed the children from infancy to 4 years old, found the cumulative incidence of stuttering by 4 years old was 11 per cent, more than twice what has previously been reported; however, the study refutes the long held view that suggests developmental stuttering is associated with a range of poorer outcomes in the preschool period.  Interestingly, the study found the reverse was true, with stuttering associated with better language development, non-verbal skills with no identifiable effect on the child’s mental health or temperament at 4 years.

Surprisingly, researchers found that recovery from stuttering was low, 6.3 per cent, 12 months after onset.  Rates of recovery were higher in boys than girls, and in those who did not repeat whole words at onset than those who did.  The study boys were more likely to develop stuttering.

Lead researcher, Professor Sheena Reilly who is Professor Director of the Speech Pathology Department at the Royal Children’s Hospital, said parents could be happy in knowing that they can take a “watch and wait” approach to their child’s stuttering and it won’t be causing harm to their child’s language skills or social and emotional development.

“Current best practice recommends waiting for 12 months before commencing treatment, unless the child is distressed, there is parental concern, or the child becomes reluctant to communicate. It may be that for many children treatment could be deferred slightly further,” the University of Melbourne speech pathology professor stated.

“Treatment is effective but is intensive and expensive, this watchful recommendation would therefore help target allocation of scarce resources to the small number of children who do not resolve and experience adverse outcomes, secure in the knowledge that delaying treatment for a year or slightly longer has been shown not to compromise treatment efficacy.”

Due to the low rates of recovery in the study, researchers were unable to determine what predicts which kids will recover from stuttering, but say this will be the focus of research moving forward.

University of Melbourne Speech Pathology School


The University of Melbourne’s Master of Speech Pathology program is designed to provide comprehensive training in all aspects of speech pathology and to produce graduates who are ready to enter the profession. The first year of the course provides the scientific background in anatomy and physiology, auditory and acoustic phonetics, linguistics, speech and language disorders, clinical practice and processes. The second year builds on the specialized knowledge acquired in first year, develops clinical skills and introduces students to research methods in the field.

Program: Master of Speech Pathology
Location: Melbourne, Victoria
Semester intake: February
Duration: 2 years
Application deadline: September 30, 2013

Entry Requirements
The University of Melbourne Selection Committee will consider applications from individuals with a science, biomedical science, health-related or other relevant degree that is equivalent to a three-year bachelor’s degree from an Australian university. The selection process will involve consideration of the following:
  • The applicant’s complete academic record, with emphasis on the final year/s of the undergraduate degree
  • Any postgraduate study
  • The relevance of previous studies to the field of audiology or speech pathology
  • The applicant’s personal statement

You should also include your Grade 12 results if you have them. The Selection Committee may also request an interview or contact the applicant’s referees to assess the applicant’s suitability for a clinical career. Entry to these courses is highly competitive and selection is made by a ranking process. OzTREKK recommends that applicants have a 75% cumulative average or above.


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