Frequently Asked Questions
What is stuttering?
Stuttering is a disorder in where speech is interrupted by repeated movements and fixed postures of the speech mechanism. These interruptions may be accompanied by signs of struggle and tension. The speech disruptions of stuttering range from mild to severe, and stuttering may also be quite variable within individuals. For example, with children, stuttering may come and go over days or months. In older children and adults, stuttering may vary according to the communicative context.
What causes stuttering?
There are many theories and popular beliefs about what causes stuttering. However, despite considerable scientific research from the second half of the 20th century onwards, the cause of the disorder remains a mystery. All we can say at present is that stuttering is most likely due to some problem with the neural processing of the brain areas that support speech production. In other words, individuals inherit a problem where speech muscles won’t do what they should do, when they are needed to do it. However, at present it is not known for certain how that genetic susceptibility works, and the precise nature of the trouble with neural speech processing is not known. The problem begins to appear as young children develop their language skills.
In short, stuttering is thought to be a physical disorder and is not caused by psychological factors such as nervousness or stress, or parenting practices or the way parents communicate with their children when they are young. Nothing about parenting style or the family environment is known to cause stuttering. Stuttering tends to run in families, and it is generally accepted that this is because genetics is involved in the cause. However, the precise nature of the inheritance is unknown at present. Psychological factors such as anxiety or stress can complicate the problem if it persists into late childhood and adolescence.
What is the Lidcombe Program?
Who uses the Lidcombe Program?
The Lidcombe Program was developed in Australia and is now used by most speech-language pathologists there. The Lidcombe Program Treatment Guide has been translated into a number of languages, and these translations can be downloaded from this website. There is an international Lidcombe Program Trainers Consortium, with members in several countries. The Consortium has provided Lidcombe Program training to thousands of speech-language pathologists in those and other countries. You can read about the consortium at this website.
Does the Lidcombe Program Work?
Yes, independently replicated clinical trials show that it does work to get rid of stuttering. Clinical trials have also shown that it works in a telehealth version, where the speech pathologist and family actually never meet; the treatment is done either by telephone or, more commonly these days, with Skype over the internet.
Research has also shown that the program is safe. It does not appear to interfere with parent-child relationships and has no apparent effect on other aspects of communication. Indeed, parents report that their children are more outgoing and talk more after treatment because they are no longer stuttering.
Is the Lidcombe Program better than natural recovery?
It is known that some children will recover from stuttering without needing formal treatment. However, treatment should normally begin within one year after the onset of stuttering during the preschool years. If treatment is delayed any longer there is a risk that treatment will not be effective. Recent research has shown that not many children will recover from stuttering within that one-year period after onset.
Normally, the speech-language pathologist will wait for up to one year, more commonly six months, to see if a preschooler’s stuttering will resolve on its own. However, there is good evidence that when the decision is made to begin Lidcombe Program treatment that it is much better than natural recovery. With what is called a meta-analysis, it has been shown that a stuttering child who receives the Lidcombe Program has seven or eight times better odds of not stuttering that a child who does not receive the Lidcombe Program.