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Measuring adverse impact in a child whose stuttering seems to be "mild"

A recent blog post asked about how we can measure educational impact for a child who appears to stutter only mildly. This is one of my favorite questions, because it's one of the topics my research has addressed over the past 20 years.

Educational and social impact of stuttering can be directly measured through tools such as the Overall Assessment of the Speaker's Experience of Stuttering (OASES; Yaruss & Quesal, 2016).

The OASES, which is based on the World Health Organization's International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF), is designed to examine the impact of stuttering in 4 domains:

  • the speaker's perception of his/her speech fluency and communication as a whole
  • negative affective, behavioral, and cognitive reactions;
  • functional communication in key situations, such as the classroom, in social settings, and at home; and
  • adverse impact on quality of life. (The OASES is the only stuttering-specific tool that assesses quality of life.)

The OASES is a standardized, paper-and-pencil measure that takes kids about 15 to 20 minutes to complete and it takes SLPs about 5 minutes to score. The result is an "impact score" and "impact rating" that indicates how much stuttering is affecting the child's life. This information can then be used to qualify kids for therapy, set treatment goals, evaluate progress in therapy, and justify dismissal when the time comes.

The OASES has been validated for school-age children (ages 7-12), teens (ages 13-17), and adults (ages 18+), and it is available in several languages. The manual contains numerous “interpretive paragraphs” that you can adapt for your diagnostic reports to describe the experiences of children at the various impact levels.

I use the OASES a lot in therapy, as well, because I go through it with my students, and that helps to open up discussions about key aspects of their experience of stuttering. The benefit is that you get a standard measure, which can be helpful for justifying treatment, in addition to the portfolio-based and qualitative data that helps to guide treatment decisions.)

Importantly, the OASES measures factors other than the frequency or severity of stuttering, so it is not affected if the stuttering is mild. You can still qualify children for therapy if they need it, regardless of how much they seem to stutter on the surface. (And, you can help to document when a child no longer needs therapy, regardless of how much they seem to stutter on the surface.)

You can also measure adverse impact indirectly, using portfolio-based assessment and other interactive methods. Lots of examples can be found in the "Checking In" forms and activities in our books on early childhood stuttering therapy and school-age stuttering therapy.

Obviously, I've got a ton to say on the matter! You can find more info about the OASES at: ‪www.StutteringTherapyResources.com/oases‬

J Scott Yaruss

Written by : J Scott Yaruss

J. Scott Yaruss, PhD, is a professor of Communicative Sciences and Disorders at Michigan State University. He has published more than 70 peer-reviewed manuscripts, more than 115 other papers on stuttering, and several clinical resources, including the Overall Assessment of the Speaker's Experience of Stuttering (OASES), Early Childhood Stuttering: A Practical Guide, School-Age Stuttering Therapy: A Practical Guide, the Minimizing Bullying program, and more (all published by Stuttering Therapy Resources, Inc.).