Stuttering Treatment

A researcher at Michigan State University, East Lansing, is hopeful that a recent grant from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders will lead to the development of better treatment options for children who stutter. 

Chang, PhD,CCC-SLP, assistant professor of communicative sciences and disorders, will use the $1.8 million grant to conduct a five-year longitudinal study on brain development in children who stutter.  She and colleagues will begin following the children’s development when they are between ages 4 and 6.  The goal is to find clues that explain how stuttering differs between males and females.

“Previous studies have shown that girls are more likely to recover from childhood stuttering,” Dr. Chang said.  “We know that at 2 to 4 years of age, boys and girls stutter more equally.  For some reason, there’s a change that occurs when they are 4-6 years old.  The girls start to recover within about two years, and often boys do not.”

She will study brain scans of the children to see whether development differs between genders to enable some to recover and others to go on to have chronic stuttering for the rest of their lives.

“This work will hopefully change the face of stuttering diagnosis and treatment,” she said.  “It’s the first series of studies to identify neural reasons for early childhood stuttering and gender differences that lead to recovery or persistence of stuttering.” 

Stuttering effects approximately 5 percent of children during the early stages of speech acquisition.  Many children recover naturally, but some do not, leaving about 1 percent of the population with chronic developmental stuttering.

“This is a speech disorder that is notoriously difficult to treat,” Dr. Chang said.  It can be debilitating for some people who might experience social or occupational rejection.

“There is a misperception that stuttering is caused by anxiety, that it is behavioral,” she stated.  “In the vast majority of cases, stuttering is not due to a psychiatric condition or low IQ.  We have strong evidence now that stuttering is caused by subtle neural deficits that disrupt interactions between different parts of the brain that are critical for fluid speech production.”

Her interest in the research comes from her training as a speech-language pathologist.  Her doctoral and postdoctoral research allowed her to conduct brain-imaging studies using MRI on children and adults who stutter.  Now she’s hoping to take stuttering research to a new level to help parents and children.

“Parents will be able to see their child’s brain growth in this study, and they will be contributing to treatment solutions for people who stutter,”  she said.  “We expect to learn more about the causes of this speech disorder and better ways to diagnose, prevent and treat it.”

The researchers are seeking participants for the study.  Parents who decide to participate can receive payment to offset time involved and to help with transportation costs.  In addition, the research team provides speech, language, hearing and IQ testing at no cost.  Children will be able to take home a picture of their brain.  The team will explain all procedures, including tests, risks and benefits.

Parents who have a child between the ages of 3 to 8 who stutters can obtain information about the study by calling (517) 884-2257 or (517) 432-1264.

This article posted in ADVANCE for Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists on Dec. 1, 2010.

Study supports restricted diet for kids with ADHD

In a study of 100 children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder-one of the world’s most common child mental disorders, scientists from Radboud University and the ADHD Research Center in the Netherlands found that a restricted diet led to significant improvments in the symptoms of some ADHD sufferers. 

Previous studies have suggested that in some children, ADHD might be an allegic or hypersensitivity disorder that could be triggered by any type of food that can cause allergic reactions. 

Jan Buitelaar of Radboud University, who led the study, said in a telephone interview that the elimination diet was restricted to rice, water, white meat such as turkey, and some fruits and vegetables that are generally considered as unlikely to cause allergies.  Foods such as wheat, tomatoes, oranges, eggs and dairy products were kept out of the diet as they are often linked with allergies or food intolerances. After five weeks, children who reacted well to the restricted diet went into a second phase in which different groups of foods were gradually added to their diet and their symptoms monitored to see if they worsened.  The foods were different for each child, based on blood results.

In the first phase, 64% of children in the diet group had significant improvements in their ADHD symptoms, Buitelaar said, and showed a decrease in “oppositional defiant disorder symptoms” such as challenging behavior.  External experts commenting on the research said it offered “excellent evidence” that dietary changes might be very beneficial for some children with ADHD, but they questioned whether if would be cost-effective in time and resources.

“We need to know more about how expensive the intervention is, how motivated parents need to be to make it work, and how easy it is for parents to get their ADHD child to stick to the diet,” said David Daley, professor of psychological intervention and behavior change at Britain’s Nottingham University.

Professor Jim Stevenson of Southampton University said it was good for parents to explore alternative treatment options.  “Many parents are reluctant to use a drug treatment and it is important that alternatives such as the few foods approach can be shown to be effective,” he said.

New Phone Relay Service

A new free relay service allows people with speech and voice disorders to place telephone calls using their own voices or augmentative and alternative communication devices.

The speech-to-speech (STS) relay system is provided by the Federal Communication Commission.  It was created by Speech Communication Assistance by Telephone, Inc., a nonprofit founded by Robert Segalman, whose cerebral-palsy-related voice difficulties hamper his ability to communicate by telephone.

STS allows a person to speak with a communiction assistant, who revoices the words of the caller for the person on the other end of the call.  Assistants are specially trained to understand the speech of callers with a variety of conditions affecting clarity of speech, including cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, stuttering, laryngectomy, and stroke.

For more informatrion about STS, visit www.speechjtospeech.org

When I tried to visit the above website, it said to check back soon.  Hopefully it will be available soon.

Talk to My Right Ear

Humans prefer to be addressed in the right ear and are more likely to perform a task when the request is received in the right ear.  In a series of three studies, Luca Tommasi and Daniele Marzoli from the Gabriele d”Annunzio University in Chieti, Italy, showed that a natural side bias is exhibited in everyday human behavior. 

Tommasi and Marzoli’s three studies specifically observed ear preference during interactions in noisy social environments.  In the first study, in which 286 participants were observed while they were talking with loud music in the background, 72% of interactions occurred on the right side of the listener.  These results are consistent with the right-ear preference found in both laboratory studies and questionnaires and demonstrate that the side bias is displayed spontaneously outside the laboratory.

The two other studies used variations on communication in similar environments.  Taken together, these results confirm a right ear/left hemisphere advantage for verbal communication and distinctive specialization of the two halves of the brain for approach and avoidance behavior.  Visit the September 2009 (Vol.96, No. 9 issue of Naturwissenschaften at www.springerlink.com/content/100479.

The Genetics of ADHD

Researchers have found evidence that attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a genetic condition in which small DNA segments are duplicated or missing.  Researchers analyzed the genomes of 366 children diagnosed with ADHD and 1,000 controls.  Rare copy number variants were almost twice as common in children with ADHD compared to the control sample and even higher for children with learning disabilities.  Search “ADHD genetics” at www.thelancet.com.

Specific Language Impairment

In a study of children with specific language impairment (SLI) and their family members, researchers have identified a gene on chromosome 6 for SLI.  The gene is associated with variability in language abilities as well as speech and reading abilites.  The finding suggests a common pathway that could contribute to overlapping strenghths or deficiencies across speech, language, and reading.  The study was published in the Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders (www.springerlink.com/content/121295/?k=SLI).

Diagnosing Autism by MRI

From the ASHA Leader: (December 21, 2010)

Researchers are honing in on a diagnostic tool to identify autism spectrum disorders (ASD).  Using MRI and fMRI, researchers have identified “hot spots” where the left and right hemispheres of the brains of people with ASD do not communicate properly with one another.  Other than an increased brain size in young children with ASD, these hot spots are the only other difference researchers have found.  Visit www.physorg.com/news/2010-10-autism-mri-closer.html.