The more the merrier? New study on Lidcombe Program group therapy for children who stutter

The Lidcombe Program is an evidence-based program that has been proven to be effective for many children who stutter.  But it is also resource intensive, requiring several consecutive weekly visits to the clinic to reach Stage 2 of the program.  (If you are new to the treatment, we’ve discussed the different stages of the treatment as well as benchmarks for how long the therapy can take and relapse rates here.)

Treatment costs and time commitments are an obstacle to many families. Speech pathologists in both the private and public sectors often struggle to deliver the treatment in the way it was designed due to time and other service delivery constraints (e.g. if they have many children who stutter on their waiting list).

One part-solution to resource and cost problems is to offer the treatment to small groups at a reduced fee per child.  Simone Arnott and her colleagues from the Australian Stuttering Research Centre have just published the results of a randomised controlled trial looking at whether group treatment achieved inferior results to traditional Lidcombe Program therapy (with only one child being treated at a time).

In a nutshell, the researchers found no evidence of a significant difference between outcomes for individual versus small group therapy, measured in weeks taken to reach Stage 2 of the program, clinic visits, or parent severity ratings.  They also found that group therapy allowed the speech pathologists to service just under twice the number of children with the same hours of total therapy time.

A few caveats:

  • some parents would have preferred individual therapy for their child and felt that they didn’t receive enough tailored training in how to deliver the treatment;
  • speech pathologists reported that treating 2 or 3 children at once was more taxing (though also more rewarding);
  • speech pathologists need some practice to deliver the therapy to groups – especially in setting activities appropriate for children of different genders, ages, personalities and stuttering severities;
  • the trial had some limitations: children were recruited from one site and the selection criteria for the 54 participants excluded children with ADHD, intellectual disability, developmental delay, autism spectrum disorder and parents without functional English (limiting the applicability of its findings to messier, more complex “real life” case loads); and
  • the treating therapists were stuttering specialists.

For these reasons, at this stage, we are not convinced that group therapy is preferable for treatment with the Lidcombe Program compared to individual therapy.  However, we are acutely conscious of the cost and wait-list factors that make stuttering treatment so challenging for many families.  We will watch this space closely, and review our position regularly as more evidence is published.

Ultimately, we aim to deliver evidence-based treatments for stuttering that suit the preferences of our clients and their families. If you are interested in participating in group Lidcombe therapy, please contact us!

Principal source: Arnott, S., Onslow, M., O’Brian, S., Packman, A., Jones, M., & Block, S. (2014). Journal of Speech, Language & Hearing Research, 57.5, 1606

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Hi there, I’m David Kinnane.

Principal Speech Pathologist, Banter Speech & Language

Our talented team of certified practising speech pathologists provide unhurried, personalised and evidence-based speech pathology care to children and adults in the Inner West of Sydney and beyond, both in our clinic and via telehealth.

David Kinnane
Speech-Language Pathologist. Lawyer. Father. Reader. Writer. Speaker.

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