Dummies not responsible for common speech disorders

New study sheds light on age-old myth

A new study has determined dummies, bottles and thumb sucking in the early years of life do not impair or worsen phonological development in children.

Folia Phoniatrica et Logopaedica published the research involving the analysis of the sucking behaviour of 199 pre-schoolers to see if their speech had been impacted – but there weren’t any links found.

The study

The lead author of the study Dr Elise Baker said questionnaires were given to the parents of participating children about their children’s nutritive and non-nutritive sucking habits.

“We looked at their…dummy use, their thumb sucking, breast feeding and bottle use,” Dr Baker said.

“We wanted to find out from parents, did they give their child a dummy? And if so, at what age did the child give it up?”

134 children had a phonological impairment and 65 had no speech impediments, but the data for both groups showed similar dummy usage rates.

Children who had an impairment used a dummy 59.7% of the time, while children who didn’t have a speech impairment still used dummies 54% of the time.

The connection

The sucking behaviours of different children with different speech problems were looked at and compared, but no links were found.

“This common speech problem is not to do with the mouth, it is more to do with the mind – how children are storing words in their mind, and their understanding of the sounds in the language and the rules for which sounds are used in the words,” she said.

“So, it makes more sense that it aligns with it being a language-based speech difficulty, rather than something going on in the mouth.”

When a child finds it difficult to learn how to use speech sounds properly and in the right context, the child is said to have a phonological impairment.

Dr Baker said that for children aged:

  • 2 years old, 50 per cent of speech should be intelligible
  • 3 years old, 75 per cent of speech should be intelligible
  • 4 years old, 100 per cent of speech should be intelligible.

According to the experts at House Call Doctor, speech screening is an easy way to conclude whether your child has healthy speech development.

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