Dual-Task Effects on Concurrent Speech Production in School-Age Children With and Without Stuttering Disorders


PURPOSE: Contemporary motor theories indicate that well-practiced movements are best performed automatically, without conscious attention or monitoring. We applied this perspective to speech production in school-age children and examined how dual-task conditions that engaged sustained attention affected speech fluency, speech rate, and language productivity in children with and without stuttering disorders. METHOD: Participants included 47 children (19 children who stutter, 28 children who do not stutter) from 7 to 12 years of age. Children produced speech in two baseline conditions with no concurrent task and under a dual-task condition requiring sustained attention to on-screen stimuli. Measures of speech fluency, speech rate, and language productivity were obtained for each trial and compared across conditions and groups. RESULTS: Dual-task conditions resulted in a reduction in stutter-like disfluencies relative to the initial baseline speaking condition. Effects were similar for both groups of children and could not be attributed to decreases in language productivity or a simple order effect. CONCLUSIONS: Findings suggest that diverting attention during the process of speech production enhances speech fluency in children, possibly by increasing the automaticity of motor speech sequences. Further research is needed to clarify neurophysiological mechanisms underlying these changes and to evaluate potential clinical applications of such effects. SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIAL: https://doi.org/10.23641/asha.19945838.

Publication Title

Journal of speech, language, and hearing research : JSLHR