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Stuttering Starts Even Before Speaking

Study Shows Brain Processing Slowed in People Who Stutter
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Toddlers Also Have Planning Delays

Just last month, Conture published his own research on children in the same journal that bears similarities to the Purdue study on adults, expected to be published in December. "In both situations," he says, "we find that the planning stage of speech is either slower, not as efficient, or somehow different in people who stutter than it is for fluent people."

His study shows that preschoolers who stutter are slower than fluent children in "planning" sentence structure. He finds these youngsters often improve their speaking when they are "primed" in this speech-planning phase with an example of similar sentence structure, and then asked to describe a picture.

"For example, they heard the sentence 'the man is throwing a stick' just before they are shown a picture in which a girl is petting the cat. The words are different, but in both sentences, there is a noun, verb, and direct object," he says.

While both studies explore a new area of research -- what occurs in planning speech that could affect how it's delivered -- their findings may offer some immediate benefit to many of the one in 20 Americans who stutters, says Jane Fraser of the Stuttering Foundation of America.

"We've long known that people who stutter can 'cure' themselves by finding a rate of speech that's right for them," she tells WebMD. "If you slow it all down, and use more pauses, there's a little more time inserted for the planning stage of speech."

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