Purdue signature

August 22, 2013

Purdue team leading stuttering research to speak at Science on Tap

speech sample pre-schooler

Purdue researchers collect a speech sample while a preschool-age child is playing. Through a five-year grant funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Purdue Stuttering Project is working to refine the method of identifying children who are likely to persist in stuttering. (Purdue University file photo)
Download Photo

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A Purdue University team developing screening tools for stutterers, particularly for preschool children, to assist in therapy and other treatments will deliver the next Science on Tap talk.

Speech, language and hearing sciences professor Christine Weber-Fox and research associate Barbara Brown will speak at 6 p.m. Aug. 29 as part of the Science on Tap informal lecture series. The event, which is free and open to those 21 and older, is in the upstairs of the Lafayette Brewing Company, 622 Main St., Lafayette.

The talk titled "Stuck on Words: Why Do Some Children Continue to Stutter and Others Recover?" is sponsored by the Purdue Department of Speech, Language & Hearing Sciences, the College of Health and Human Sciences, and Discovery Park.

Christine Weber-Fox

Christine Weber-Fox
Download Photo

"This speech disorder can be very frustrating and affects about 1 percent of the world's population and about 5 to 8 percent of preschool children," Weber-Fox said. "While most children grow out of it, many experience lifelong challenges with stuttering."

Weber-Fox and Brown say their research has focused on the developmental milestones and measures of emotion, brain activity for language, and stability of speech movements in predicting which children who stutter are at high risk for developing chronic stuttering. 

"In our Science on Tap talk, we will discuss what we now know about stuttering, with special emphasis on the development of stuttering in preschool children," she said. "We will describe some of our most current research findings and offer tips for parents of children who are stuttering."

In the five-year National Institutes of Health sponsored study, called the Purdue Stuttering Project, the researchers worked with groups of 4-year-olds who both stutter and are normally fluent. Returning to the Purdue labs every year for five years, the children were tested on a variety of physiological fronts, as well as with speech and language measures.

The second five years of the Purdue program, which kicked off in April through a $3 million grant from NIH, will refine the method of identifying children who are likely to persist in stuttering, said Brown, who is coordinator for the Purdue Stuttering Project.

Barbara Brown

Barbara Brown
Download Photo

"We'll use that information to develop screening tools to help speech pathologists determine which children should receive therapy right away," Brown said.

Leading the Purdue Stuttering Project are Anne Smith, a distinguished professor of speech, language and hearing sciences, along with Weber-Fox and Brown.

Weber-Fox describes stuttering as a multifactorial disorder - one that is not the same for everyone. Interactions between speech motor-control issues, anxiety or emotional levels and atypical brain-wave activities for language could all put a speaker on pause.

A cognitive neuroscientist, Weber-Fox uses electro-caps to measure how the brain responds to these kinds of input. With yearly measures providing specific details on both children who stutter and those who recover, researchers can develop detailed profiles of each child, potentially leading to more tailored treatment for stuttering.

Weber-Fox joined the Department of Speech, Language & Hearing Sciences at Purdue in 1999. After receiving her doctorate degree, she completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Salk Institute in the area of cognitive neuroscience. 

Science on Tap, led by Purdue graduate students Patrick Dolan and Becca Scott, provides Purdue faculty and collaborating researchers the opportunity to share research activities in an informal setting with presentations that are designed to appeal to a more general audience. Attendance at the monthly event has averaged 80 during the program's first two years.  

Writer: Phillip Fiorini, 765-496-3133, pfiorini@purdue.edu

Sources: Christine Weber-Fox, 765-494-3819, weberfox@purdue.edu

Barbara Brown, 765-496-6403, brownb@purdue.edu

Patrick Dolan, 765-496-9336, pdolan@purdue.edu 

Previous release: http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/releases/2013/Q2/purdue-stuttering-project-receives-3-million-research-grant.html