by Elaine Yandeau, Learning Support/Speech Language Pathologist
At the end of April, YIS, in collaboration with The Australian Stuttering Research Centre and Kitasato University, provided stuttering intervention training to approximately 35 Japanese Speech Language Pathologists (SLP) from around the country. Many of the SLPs work in hospitals, clinics or universities. The Lidcombe Workshop is a behavioral program specifically for young children six years old or younger. Early intervention is most effective when treating stuttering.
Approximately 1% of the world stutters. While that may not seem a lot, if we think about it in terms of the population of YIS, then statistically 6 or 7 children will have stuttering disorder. Most people who stutter present with mild severity and more boys stutter than girls. Even mild stuttering can have a significant impact on how a child feels and thinks about themselves as a communicator. We need to have more research about stuttering, but we do know that it is neurological, not psychological and in many cases genetic. Stuttering can have a negative lifelong psychological impact on a child, even from when they are very, very young.
The Lidcombe Program developed by Dr. Mark Onslow in Australia, is a program that currently has the most research behind it for young children. It is named after a suburb in Sydney where it was developed. While it doesn’t work for everyone, if followed faithfully, it can reduce stuttering in young children to no stuttering or nearly no stuttering. Parents implement the program whilst the SLP guides the parents.
Approximately 11 years ago, I sought support from the Australian Stuttering Research Centre to treat a young YIS student who was stuttering severely. Dr. Brenda Carey, SLP and Lidcombe Consortium member, kindly agreed to treat the student via telehealth at the school with The Lidcombe Program, while I was able to observe, learn and train. I was also lucky to be able to visit Australia for additional training. After treating another YIS student successfully, I thought if I can do this as a general SLP without a PhD. in stuttering, so can the Japanese SLPs. With the support of YIS, Dr. Yuki Hara, a well-known researcher and stuttering specialist from Kitasato University and Dr Carey from The Australian Stuttering Research Centre, the first Lidcombe Workshop was held at the Yamate campus in December 2013. Since then over 400 Japanese SLPs at the YIS campus have been trained in The Lidcombe Program and there are many more waiting for the next workshop. As a result of YIS allowing the workshops to be held at our school, we can pass the savings on to the Japanese SLPs and keep the costs low. This means more SLPs can be trained and in the end more children can be supported.
Speech Language Pathologists at the Lidcombe Program training workshop at YIS, April 2022.
Workshop participants pose with trainer Dr. Brenda Carey, based in Australia, of the Lidcombe Consortium.
There is a lot of work that goes into The Lidcombe Workshop and it certainly is a team effort. Through Kitasato University, there is a team of volunteer SLPs who translate documents, research, and other material required for the training, along with organizing the registration. Dr. Carey and I lead The Lidcombe Workshop with two translators who work tirelessly during the three day workshop translating from English to Japanese and Japanese to English.
The Lidcombe Program has gained significant traction in Japan since first offering the training at YIS and it has been reported at the last few workshops by Japanese SLPs that parents are requesting the program. According to Dr. Yuki Hara, in Japan, the Lidcombe Program is now recognized as the leading intervention method for childhood stuttering and the national board exam includes questions about the program. She stated, “The Japanese Society for Stuttering Fluency Disorders also hopes for more workshops to be held and that everyone appreciates that the Lidcombe Program Workshops are being held at YIS.”
As I’ve been at YIS for 11 years, I was able to keep track of the first student who received The Lidcombe Program. Two years ago, Dr. Onslow, Dr. Carey and I, wrote an article in Speech Language and Hearing Journal interviewing the YIS student and its impact on his life. This article informs SLPs about the importance and timing of intervention. Early intervention is critical!
YIS has played a significant role in bringing this training to Japan and has been officially thanked and recognized by The Australian Stuttering Research Centre. YIS is committed to early intervention, not just for our students but to our host country as well. We will continue to support this evidence-based intervention because as one of the first children at YIS and in Japan, who received The Lidcombe Program intervention, said, “everyone should have the opportunity to say what they are thinking and feeling. Every child deserves a voice”.