We asked parents of children who stammer at what age they first identified a communication difficulty in their child. Over half (56%) said this was between the ages of 1-3, and 32% said it was between the ages of 4-7. Only 12% said they first identified a difficulty when the child was 8 or over. The most common difficulty children experienced at this stage was social and out-of-school activities, and attending nursery of school was the second most common difficulty.
When we asked parents about the quality of the therapy their child had received for their stammer, a high proportion of parents told us they were unhappy with the service they had received. Amongst parents who had used a therapist in their local area who specialised in stammering, only 35% said they were happy with the service. A high number (29%) said there was no service available locally to help their child. As many as 21% of parents said they had paid for private therapy for their child, and more than half of these parents said they were unhappy with the service their child had received.
In our survey of speech and language therapists, 98% said they worked with children and young people and 47% said they were specialists in stammering. We asked therapists what changes would help them provide better support to children who stammer. Therapists told us they would like more research and evidence regarding what works, and more specialist training in relation to children who stammer. They also said they would like to see more practical support for parents.
Speech and language therapists also told us they faced a number of challenges in their work including a lack of appropriate skills, insufficient staffing levels, funding issues, high waiting list, and the difficulty of working in rural areas and with multi-lingual families.
The findings of the two surveys formed an important part of a strategic review by Action for Stammering Children of our aims and activities as a charity. We want to make sure we are doing all we can to support children and young people who stammer and their families across the UK, particularly at a time when some NHS services are being cut back. We also want to do more to support speech and language therapists around the country who are providing such an important service, often in the face of considerable professional challenges. This will be the focus of our work in the months and years ahead.
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