Why do kids grow out of stuttering? Purdue researchers aim to find out

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WEST LAFAYETTE – Purdue University professors earned a federal grant that will help them understand what’s behind childhood stuttering and why some kids grow out of the problem.

Professors Anne Smith and Christine Weber-Fox, who lead the Purdue Stuttering Project, received a $3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study stuttering. They hope the money will help them develop a speech therapy screening tool to help identify which kids are likely to grow out of the problem and which ones need therapy.

During the five-year project, the professors will follow 100 children who stutter. The children will complete several different standardized tests. At the end, the professors will compare the results of those tests and see which children still stutter and which ones have grown out of it. Smith and Weber-Fox will then use those results to develop clinical tests designed to identify kids at high risk for stuttering.

According to research, 5 percent of preschool-aged child stutter. About 75 percent of them will eventually grow out of it. Still, about 1 percent of adults stutter.

Smith and Weber-Fox have worked together since 1999, finding there is a different in brain function for people who stutter. The researchers have monitored brain activity and motor coordination in both children and adults, but their most recent work has concentrated on preschool children who recover from stuttering and those who don’t.

In the upcoming study, they will also examine the emotional aspects of stuttering with help from Donald Lyman, professor and director of clinical training in psychological sciences. Sharon Christ, assistant professor of statistics and human develop and family studies, will also collaborate.

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