Disfluency Characteristics of 4- and 5-Year-Old Children Who Stutter and Their Relationship to Stuttering Persistence and Recovery.



Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Publication Title

Journal of speech, language, and hearing research : JSLHR


Purpose The purpose of this study is to document disfluency behaviors expressed by 4- and 5-year-old children who stutter and to identify whether stuttering characteristics at this age are predictive of later stuttering recovery or persistence. Method We analyzed spontaneous speech samples from 47 children diagnosed with developmental stuttering when they were 4-5 years old. Based on their eventual diagnosis made the final year of participation in the longitudinal study when the children were 6-9 years old, the children were divided into two groups: children who eventually recovered from stuttering (n = 29) and children who were persisting (n = 18). We calculated a composite weighted stuttering-like disfluency (SLD) index of overall severity that considers the frequency, type, and number of repetition units of SLDs. The frequency and type of typical disfluencies were also examined. Results Higher weighted SLD scores at ages 4-5 years were associated with a higher probability of persistent stuttering. The weighted SLD also significantly discriminated between children who would eventually be diagnosed as persisting or recovered from stuttering. The frequency and type of typical disfluency did not distinguish the two groups of children; however, children who were persisting had significantly higher frequencies of part-word repetitions and dysrhythmic phonations (i.e., blocks, prolongations, and broken words) and maximum number of part-word repetitions compared to children who eventually recovered from stuttering. Conclusions Previous findings in younger, 2- to 3-year-old children who stutter did not suggest a relationship between the severity and type of children's SLDs and their eventual stuttering outcome. Yet, by the age of 4-5 years, we found that the weighted SLD, a clinically applicable tool, may be used to help identify children at greater risk for stuttering persistence. We propose that the weighted SLD be considered, along with other predictive factors, when assessing risk of stuttering persistence in 4- and 5-year-old children who are stuttering.

Open Access