Speech and Language Therapy students’ perceptions of parents who allow prolonged non-nutritive sucking and perceived consequences for the child.
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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Non-nutritive sucking (NNS) is reported to associate with impaired speech and language, recurrent otitis media, dental malformation and reduced success with breastfeeding. Potential benefits are often discarded, such as comfort, increased arousal and a decreased likelihood of sudden infant death syndrome. With many health care professionals advising against dummy sucking, an investigation into their perspectives was necessary. The aim of this study was to explore the perspectives of speech and language therapy (SLT) students, in relation to a 4;10 year old dummy sucking child, to obtain their perspectives of dummy sucking and possible origins of such perceptions. 20 final year SLT students and 25 first year SLT students (n=45) were used, to ascertain whether the students’ views had been influenced by the amount of clinical experience. Participants completed questionnaires when presented with two photographs of the same child in two poses: dummy sucking and non-dummy sucking. This mixed methods approach identified significant differences in perceptions according to year of study and parental status. Students who had more clinical experience were found to have more negative perceptions regarding the parent of the dummy sucking child, suggesting the perspective derives from clinical experience and increased client contact. Despite the negative perceptions, such as reduced income and probable developmental deficits, many of the students declared that they would permit their own children to dummy suck. This article argues that negative perceptions surrounding dummy sucking arise from the participants’ clinical experience, however, the results indicate this is not the sole factor in attitude formation, as other influences were identified such as concerns regarding perceived parental stoicism and familial influences.
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