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13-02-2012 | Psychology | Article

Stuttering impact on education, employment ‘less than perceived’


Free abstract

MedWire News: Findings from a UK study do not support the commonly held belief that stuttering prevents people with the speech impediment from achieving their expected level of education and career progression.

"In interview and survey studies, people who stutter report the belief that stuttering has had a negative impact on their own education and employment," say Jan McAllister and colleagues from the University of East Anglia in Norwich.

To assess whether this is an actual or a perceived impact, McAllister and team carried out a secondary analysis of data from the National Child Development Study (NCDS), which enrolled 18,558 babies born in the UK in the same week in 1958.

For the purposes of this study, the researchers compared educational- and employment-related outcomes between 217 cohort participants reported to stutter at the age of 16 years and 15,694 who had no history of stuttering or other speech problems at age 16.

Outcomes assessed by the researchers included school leaving age, highest qualification obtained, unemployment early in working life, and salary and socioeconomic status of job (ranging from low for unskilled work to high for professional jobs) at age 23 and 50 years.

As reported in the Journal of Fluency Disorders, participants who stuttered at the age of 16 years were significantly more likely to be male, have poorer cognitive and reading test scores, and be a victim of bullying than were participants who did not stutter at this age.

However, educational outcomes did not generally differ between stutterers and nonstutterers, note the authors.

The only one significantly influenced by stuttering was socioeconomic status of job at age 50 years, for which stutterers reported having lower status jobs than nonstutterers.

"Therapists who work with people who stutter need to be aware of these findings, since it is likely that their clients may report to them opinions and concerns similar to those articulated in earlier research with regard to the impact of stuttering on education and employment," write McAllister et al.

"Therapists can reassure clients that stuttering per se is not necessarily a barrier to aspirations in these two domains."

They conclude: "Clients need to identify their own educational and career goals on the basis of their preferences and non-speech aptitudes, and then be encouraged by therapists to refrain from using maladaptive coping strategies such as avoidance which may themselves have a negative impact on educational and employment outcomes."

By Helen Albert

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