Effects of Gradual Increases in Sentence Length and Complexity on Children's Dysfluency
To systematically evaluate the task demands of changes in utterance length and complexity, 8 normal and 8 stuttering children, ages 3:11–6:4, were administered an elicited imitation task in which the variables of syntactic complexity (as determined by normative age of acquisition) and length were manipulated to appraise their effects upon fluency and accuracy of sentence reproduction. Our findings suggest that fluency breakdown is significantly well correlated with gradual increases in syntactic complexity for both stuttering and normal children, as is sentence replication ability. Length does not appear to be as strong a predictor of fluency characteristics of elicited output. Additionally, we were unable to support a growing clinical impression of subtle language differences between normal and stuttering children; our stuttering subjects did not differ significantly from the normal children in their ability to accurately reproduce a variety of sentence types. The data suggest ways in which task complexity in stuttering therapy for young children might be ordered.