Friday, January 09, 2009

Why sudden onset?

I talked about the large-scale study by the Onslow/Packman group here. They studied more than 1500 kids from age 2 to 3. Another worthwhile observation is
Onset often occurred suddenly over 1 to 3 days (49.6%) and involved the use of word combinations (97.1%).
Isn't a sudden onset impossible if I and many other claim neuronal damage due to genetics or a neurological incident? Not really. Think of a car that has a defective motor that overheats if you hit 140 km/h and drive in warm weather. If you buy your car in Spring and drive slowly for the first few weeks as the manufacturers suggest, you will not notice the damage. The sudden onset could show the switch of the brain from simpler speech to full-blown complex speech. Their observation that word combinations are involved might be an important clue. So what about those who do not have a sudden onset? Maybe their problems are less severe. I do not know.

As I said a few times: We need more research on the period before onset. And I am glad they did this study. We commit a fallacy by studying the period after onset assuming that that's the moment the issue started! It starts much earlier! 

Don't tell me that you have to do research on kids just after onset, because before onset is so much more difficult. My answer is: Well, then don't do any research! Do something else, something productive: spend more time with your family, do more therapy, join forces with other researchers, and so on!


AAAlbert said...

This observation of sudden onset of childhood stuttering must be done by untrained, nonprofessional parents, and we all know that retrospective studies involve a lot of inaccuracy and distortion of facts. I would prefer the idea that a Harvard professor is doing on his own children - build a whole house with 24-hour camera-recording and automatic data processing. What a dream study!

For now, this piece of study is whatever we can get, and it tells something different that what we used to believe. I have not seen too many children starting their stuttering, but at least my niece started with a sudden onset and with severe silent blocks. Luckily she is already recovered.

Anonymous said...

Studying onset? What??? How can we even begin to study onset when we don't really have much of a clue about what happens in the brain of a fully qualified stutterer? Using your analogy of a car: when it breaks down, a mechanic can determine exactly what went wrong and find the fault because he/she knows how the car works. The mechanic can then deduce the cause (onset) of the fault. With a stutterer, we know that there is something wrong but, despite years of brain scans comparing stuttering brains with "normal brains" (and stuttering DNA with "normal DNA), nobody can say *where* the fault is.

Why has progress been so slow? I believe it's because most of the researchers lack competence. Take Mark Onslow as an example. His qualifications are in speech pathology - therefore he has limited understanding of neuroscience and genetics. Susan Block has even less competence (I've met her so I know her incompetence). In my humble opinion, neurologists should be taking the leading role in stuttering research - not these SLPs who really know nothing, and are just holding back progress.

Tom, you're a physicist (if I understand correctly). In the early 20th century, astronomers did not understand how stars can continue to shine for billions of years, and how they eventually die. It took advances in nuclear physics (thermonuclear reactions, electron degeneracy, degeneracy from neutrinos etc.), and the specific skills of physicists to finally solve the problem. It's the same with stuttering research; SLPs simply do not have the competence so stuttering must be solved by advances in neuroscience and the skills of neurologists.
When I see papers written by people like Onslow and Block, I just laugh. But I should really be crying because they are doing a disservice to us stutterers.


Anonymous said...

I do not know if this matters, but age 2 is also the age of "onset" for some types of autism. The theory in that case is that the mmr (I think)vaccine is given around the same time that there are brain changes that help deflect incoming stimuli that is not novel or is unimportant (leading to a child with autism being hypersensitive to noises etc...) Could it be that the brain changes at the time speech develops allowing this difference to demonstrate itself?
As a parent who has observed my own two children stutter, both were different. My son, who still stutters at 18, began stuttering when he started putting two words together. My daughter has had brief periods that begin suddenly and can be severe, but stop after an hour, a week, a month, but it's been pretty rare, since about age 3 (She's 7).

Anonymous said...

Here's a link to the first article that came up when I googled the subject.
They are studying siblings born after a child is diagnosed with Autism and are noting early behaviors/ brain growth differences at age 12 months.
So...if the researchers studied siblings they may be able to find early symptoms.

Anonymous said...

Ah...Just an observation and question... Speech (Talking) is a learned behavior... Do kids get a chance to make speech mistakes in the learning curve before the experts start indentifying "stuttering"?

It my understanding the "experts" can't even agree on what the definition of stuttering is, and have major disagreements identifying childhood stuttering behaviors...

Just my thoughts Re: Onslow and the SLP researchers - We stutterers need to stop paying attention to the professionally identified "Wizards" behind the curtain pulling all the levers... Unlike Bo, they don't know diddly...

Law Student said...

Glad to see you've kept up your blog. I just started back updating mine after nearly a year. Good to see you, my friend!

PJ said...

My 10 year old son started stammering or stuttering 2 weeks ago. It started with "and then". He could not get past these two words without considerable repetition. He seems to be getting worse and frustrated! I have an appt set up with his Dr, but can't be seen for 3 wks. I am scared.

VW said...

I'd love to know how your son went PJ. My daughter is having exactly the same problem, aged 10 as well. Im worried and at a loss, she is even concerned because others have mentioned it to her at school (thankfully not in a teasing way). Would love to know how you went on. I have an appointment, but must wait a month.

Shannon said...

I have a ten year old son,who has mild autism and developmental delay disorder.He has always has speech problems with certain letters.Since school has been out for the summer,he has been stuttering and he can't complete his sentences often,so he just leaves it alone.I am worried that it is something neurologic.So I'm gonna call his neuro tomorrow.I have been reading online about it. I have come to a few things to go on.There is a test PET imaging that can be done.I hope everyone can find out what is causing this to their child.And able to treat this.I am a very concerned mother and worried too.

Vivian said...

@George: My sentiments exactly -- I've been to many speech therapists ever since I started stuttering (strangely, I'm one of those rare cases where stuttering suddenly popped up overnight in adulthood), and all of them were quite incompetent when it came to the *scientific* reasoning behind stuttering. All they kept telling me to do was to practice the techniques, but they never worked for me. When I questioned them about the exact biological roots and mechanics of stuttering, they were all puzzled. This has always pissed me off, because what else but a biological explanation can I fall on if speech techniques don't work for me?

Like you, I also strongly believe that speech-language pathologists should not be involved in stuttering research if they don't know jacksh*t about the underlying scientific mechanisms. They're more aligned with counselors than anything else.

Anonymous said...

I have a 14 year old girl and she suddenly started stuttering today at school .took her to the hospital but set her home with a follow up appontment to see her GP this is really worrying as she has had no problems in the past .