UC researching stuttering

29 April 2013

Around 45,000 New Zealanders stutter and a University of Canterbury researcher is investigating to, ultimately, help reduce stuttering.

UC researching stuttering  - Imported from Legacy News system

Around 45,000 New Zealanders stutter and a University of Canterbury researcher is investigating to, ultimately, help reduce stuttering.

The percentage of stuttering in pre-school children is around three percent and a significant number of these children outgrow the condition.

UC communication disorders professor Michael Robb says there are a slew of theories as to why children begin stuttering.

"They range from poor parenting to biological, but none of these theories seem to capture all possible instances of stuttering.

"Most of us have met someone who stutters. The peculiarity of this condition is undeniable and is one of the most identifiable communication disorders.

"Reports of stuttering can be traced back centuries. The disorder received widespread attention in the 2010 film, The King’s Speech, which profiled the impact of stuttering on the life of King George VI.

"We have a large team of researchers here, as well as a number of postgraduate students, actively researching stuttering behaviour.

"The goal of our research is to unravel some of the characteristics of stuttering that may interfere with successful treatment of the condition. The programme consists of three themes.

"The first involves the interaction between language and stuttering. Our research has shown that the language used by people who stutter is not necessarily the same as those who do not stutter.

"One of our PhD students, Amanda Lee, has been evaluating the change in language behaviour that occurs in adults who stutter after completion of a stuttering treatment programme.

"The amount of stuttering was found to decrease following treatment. Unexpectedly, the type of language used by these same individuals also changed,’’ Professor Robb says.

A second theme of the UC research examines the role of anxiety in people who stutter. Their research has shown that people who stutter do not differ from non-stutterers in regard to general levels of anxiousness.

However, they have found a strong predisposition for difference in anxiety in certain situations.

Recent Masters graduates Janine Diehl and Bianca van der Merwe completed theses evaluating anxiety in adults and children who stutter.

"The third theme of research involves examining the role of the brain in stuttering. We have been looking at physiological and behavioural methods.

"We believe people who stutter may be using both sides of the brain when producing speech, whereas people who do not stutter tend to show more reliance on the left side. PhD student Myriam Kornisch is examining this topic as it applies to bilinguals who stutter.

"While the cause of stuttering remains elusive our research brings us closer to unravelling the unique characteristics of this disorder,’’ Professor Robb says.

For further information please contact:
Kip Brook
Media Consultant
Student Services and Communications
University of Canterbury
Ph: (03) 364 3325
Mobile: 027 5030 168
kip.brook@canterbury.ac.nz