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New evidence for treating young children with the Lidcombe Program

| 01.09.2005

A major study published August 2005 in the British Medical Journal showed that preschool children who stammer will have significantly less stammering and a higher recovery rate if they are treated with the Lidcombe Programme, compared to those who receive none, or minimal therapy.

As a randomised controlled trial, it studied two similar groups of children, one who received Lidcombe treatment, the other receiving little or no treatment. After nine months of treatment, children receiving Lidcombe had reduced their stammering by 77%, compared to 43% who did not receive it.

The study was run by the Australian Stuttering Research Centre and conducted at two sites in New Zealand. It involved 54 children between three and six years (with frequency of stammering of at least 2% syllables stuttered). The children had been stammering for at least six months before the study, and had not received treatment for stammering during the previous year. There were 29 in the Lidcombe group, and 25 in the other group. 12 of the participants were girls.

In recent years therapy for pre-school children has become more widely accepted. BSA has campaigned for more therapy provision for young children because stammering is most effectively treated before a child starts school.

The significance of this study is that it has produced very clear evidence that therapy, in this case the Lidcombe Programme in the preschool years, can significantly reduce stammering. With therapy services needing to show clear evidence to justify their work, this study provides important data to show that treating stammering in young children is much more effective than relying on natural recovery.

Another randomised controlled trial of the Lidcombe Program is being conducted in Germany and is in its final stages.

From the Autumn 2005 edition of Speaking Out

Letter from Dr Tom Weidig:

I would like to comment on the Lidcombe random control trial study that appeared in the British Medical Journal. The study is an important piece of research but, in my opinion, the Autumn 2005 Speaking Out article over-states the significance of the study. I have carefully looked at their statistical analysis, and concluded that their statistical measures are incorrect and over-state the significance of their results. Moreover, it is unclear whether relapse reduces the efficacy further.

Second, it is important to point out that the study has not shown that the Lidcombe therapy is more effective than another therapy. It might well be that other therapies have similar results. For example, another study by Dutch researchers have compared Lidcombe with a Capacity and Demand therapy and found no difference in efficacy: see Franken et al. in Journal of Fluency Disorders 30 (2005) 189-199. You can find my detailed response [and others, Ed.] on the website of the British Medical Journal [linked on the right].