Reviewed by Jackie Turnbull SLT, Leeds East PCT
This book should be subtitled 'all you ever wanted to know about the development of early childhood stuttering'. It has evolved from the research program at the University of Illinois which started in 1977 and has developed in size and scope considerably over the years. This program has been responsible for copious research findings which over the years have greatly advanced our understanding of the nature and diagnosis of early childhood dysfluency.
The fourteen chapters not only cover the research undertaken in the study but provide the reader with historical perspectives of each area discussed, including theoretical perspectives and previous studies. The authors state that their own findings "challenge a long held view of stuttering as a disorder that begins as a 'small animal' and gradually transforms into a 'big monster'." (p 185) They view stuttering not as a condition which develops from normal dysfluency but as a disorder with its own specific characteristics.
Early chapter headings include 'the onset of stuttering', 'dysfluency characteristics of early stuttering' and 'development of stuttering'. For clinicians, the information contained here is invaluable for understanding, classifying and diagnosing stuttered speech and in understanding exactly how it differs from the speech of children whose speech is normally dysfluent. In addition there is interesting data regarding children whose stuttering persists and those who recover.
Three chapters reflect the considerable debate there has been over the years when considering other difficulties which may be associated with early stuttering. These areas include children's sound systems, language development and motor, cognitive and psychological/social aspects. A further chapter updates research into genetics and includes an interesting discussion as to how this information can be used clinically - including the ethical considerations involved.
Further chapters discuss assessment and treatment. The authors provide a rationale for their view, which has been the subject of some controversy, that treatment is neither necessary nor possible for all early stuttering, especially in the early stages. Instead they argue that a decision to treat should be based on estimating the chance of risk from all the information currently available.
The book is one of a series described as 'For clinicians by clinicians'. I would endorse this and would certainly recommend it as a 'must' for any clinician working with young disfluent children. To parents I would say - look at your speech and language therapist's bookshelves and if you do not see it there, ask why not!
'Early Childhood Stuttering' by Yairi E & Ambrose NG, 2005, Texas: Pro-Ed
From the Summer 2006 issue of 'Speaking Out', page 21