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The fact that the children who stutter were not more withdrawn than their peers who don't stutter was a "very positive finding," says Sheena Reilly, the study's lead author.
Stuttering, sometimes called stammering, often includes repetition of words or phrases as well as prolongation of sounds. Some people can outgrow the speech disorder, which often begins in early childhood. It can persist into adulthood for others.
The study included 1,619 4-year-old children in Melbourne, Australia. They were recruited at 8 months.
The study found that the children who stutter had higher verbal and non-verbal scores than their peers who don't stutter. Tests looked at what the kids understand, what they say and how they solve a puzzle.
The proportion of kids in this group who began stuttering by age 4 was 11%, an amount higher than reported in previous studies. Recovery from stuttering within 12 months of onset was 6.3%, a rate lower than expected, according to the study.
Reilly, associate director of clinical and public health research at Murdoch Childrens Research Institute in Australia, says researchers will continue to follow this group of children to learn more about their recovery from stuttering.
Joseph Donaher, academic and research program director for the Center for Childhood Communication at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, says the finding about stuttering's impact may help allay parents' worries. "Reports like this help clinicians make the case that some stuttering, especially for a short period of time, doesn't mean that your child is going to be negatively impacted in the future."
Image: Preschool group, via Shutterstock