Kids Speech

Reporter: Laura Sparkes

"Totally heart breaking to see her do that, she was only 2 and 3, it was affecting her confidence in such a big way."

"The child is clearly struggling to speak in front of you, quite often they're hitting their mouths, saying mummy I can't talk, its just awful" says Professor Mark

It's distressing to watch and listen to. Tiny tots as young as 3 struggling to speak afflicted with a debilitating speech problem, stuttering

"We know that if you don't get stuttering under control by the school years of age kids start to receive peer reactions that are negative and that can lead to a lot of mental health problems later in life" says Professor Mark

Colin Firth won an academy award for his depiction of a shy, unconfident stuttering King George VI in The Kings speech...The film follow's his journey to overcome stuttering with the help of an untrained Australian using controversial techniques.

And just like in the kings speech help for stutterers today comes in all sorts of unorthodox ways and places...along this unassuming corridor in the back blocks of western Sydney we're going to witness the amazing techniques that are helping transform the lives of very young stutterers

It's a world first a program designed and now being trialled here called robot talking

"Its exciting, its cutting edge, its unexpected it's going to make life easier for parents." Says Professor Mark

Professor Mark Onslow heads the Australian Stuttering Research Centre, in the Faculty of Health Sciences at The University of Sydney.

"If you speak in rhythm stuttering goes away, its been known when adults do that they stop stuttering immediately but if you're an adult you stop talking like that and you start stuttering again when the children stopped talking like that, the stuttering tended to go away." Says Professor Mark

Madi Leiding Weight is just 2 here already she's stuttering and a prime candidate for robot talking

At 3 and a half it was getting worse.

"She started to block her words, it looked like the words were choking her and she couldn't spit them out, there were delays of up to 10 seconds between words." Says mum Emily

Madi's mum Emily watched on in desperation as her gregarious little girl turned into a shy introverted child.

"In social situations she wouldn't talk she wouldn't introduce herself, she'd stand next to me, she was so nervous kids would tease her so she just wouldn't speak." Says Emily

In this crushing scene taken at the beginning of Madi's treatment, it takes her 30 seconds to say one word, watch as her little mouth contorts trying to get the word out to get stuck like that was really heartbreaking, it brings tears to your eyes to see a little girl struggling so hard, her little eyes it looks like she's pleading for someone to help her."

And all this beautiful girl wanted to say was this "but you know what my shoes shine so brightly."

Lucky for Madi, she had the chance to learn robot talking. A technique still bamboozling experts as to why it helps pre schoolers but not adults overcome stuttering

Professor Onslow says "all we can say at the moment is that children have neurological plasticity."

And of course its fun!

"Kids can relate to robots, it makes it really easy for us, because when you do robot talking they immediately think of lots of TV and film characters that are robots." Says Professor Mark

Oliver Moore is just beginning the journey, this is his second treatment but there's many success stories. A little boy transforms from this to this, another boy's stutter disappears from this to this and then there's Madi she had weekly sessions but her parents had to reinforce it daily at home.

"The whole family got involved in helping her with robot talking, so the grandparents were doing it with her, do it in the car, as we made dinner, it was just something that became part of our way of life so she could practice as much as she needed." Says Emily

"The more and more she called upon it, I think the more and more she got confident she had a tool to use when she got stuck, slowly her brain just reocgnised when it felt a stutter coming on it would call upon breaking down the words." She continues

Two years on Madi is in year one, she's fluent and confident, the stuttering completely gone

"I just couldn't get the word out of my mouth so it was really hard to get the word out." Says Maddi

"It was magic to watch her change and to have the therapy come in and just cast this magic spell that just changed our lives and her life in such a dramatic way."

Anyone who stutters, or parents of stuttering children, wishing to receive treatment free of charge in a clinical trial can contact the Australian Stuttering Research Centre on 02 9351 9061 or go to

http://sydney.edu.au/health_sciences/asrc/