Il progetto di ricerca longitudinale "indici fonetici predittivi di balbuzie cronica in età prescolare": primi risultati

Due to difficulties in eradicating stuttering in adulthood, it could be valuable to identify, among pre-school stuttering children, the future persistent stutterers, in order to begin the treatment as early as possible (Lincoln & Onslow, 1997). This would enhance the treatment effectiveness and would prolong its benefits (Starkweather, 1993), deserving the therapeutic efforts only on children at-risk to persist. We present a longitudinal project granted to the first author by CNR in 2008, aiming at devising a set of clinical predictors able to individuate persistent stutterers as close as possible to the onset (Pisciotta et al, 2010). A further aim is to detect any differences in the physiological, cognitive and linguistic aspects between recovered and persistent stutterers. Our indices are based on the following evidence: -the speech-associated attitude of preschool and kindergarten children, as measured by Kiddy Cat (Vanrychegem & Brutten, 2007), is a powerful diagnostic instrument to differentiate stuttering children from non stuttering ones and it could be also a predictor for stuttering persistency. -the stuttering children who will recover spontaneously reduce the proportion of the "stuttering-like disfluencies" over the total number of disfluencies in the first year after the onset (Yairi & Ambrose, 2005). -acoustic evidence that, in the perceptively fluent speech of future persistent stutterers close to the onset, the supralaryngeal coarticulation (as measured by "Locus of Equations" method, Sussman et al. 2010; see also Chang et al., 2002; Subramanian et al., 2003), as well as the sublaryngeal-laryngeal-supralaryngeal coordination, as indexed by VOT (Zebrowski et al., 1985), are abnormal and they reveal a spatial/temporal discoordination of fine articulatory movements necessary to produce a clear, smooth and rapid speech. In order to optimize the research efforts, we focussed only on children having first degree relatives with stuttering problems (the chance to develop a stuttering behaviour is up to 6 times higher than normal in these children, Kloth et al., 1999). Up to now, we recruited 40 families of at-risk infants aged 12-24 months from a huge database of CMF. Children are audio and video recorded at home when they are 24-months-old. At that time, we instruct parents to call us as soon as they detect any signs of stuttering in the future. Only children who begin to stutter are recorded at home for 15 months. They are also clinically evaluated twice at CMF, at beginnings and at the end, by means of standard tests. If children still stutter at the end, they receive treatment. We already performed the recording of 39 subjects at the age of 24 months. 13 children of them began to stutter. We present some preliminary results on the first three of them which ended the observation period.

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Zmarich Claudio°
Bernardini Simona*
Galatà Vincenzo°^
Lenoci Giovanna§
Pisciotta Caterina*
Stocco Debora*
Omega Edizioni, Torino, ITA
International Conference on Stuttering, edited by Soncini Giacomo, pp. 79–88. Torino: Omega Edizioni, 2012
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