Are you an adult who stutters? Or do you know someone who stutters? This article is for you. We are going to tell about 5 things that adults with a stutter should know.
1. Stuttering is hard to define
International stuttering experts don’t yet agree on a definition of stuttering. This can be potentially confusing for speech pathologists, and even more confusing for people who stutter! It can be hard to treat something that is hard to define. Part of the definition problem is that people are different. Anyone can stutter on occasion. Yet, there are people who experience “mild” stuttering and find it debilitating. So, one good way to define stuttering is to ask what it means to the individual. What is your personal experience of stuttering? How does it impact you?
Another good way to define stuttering is to think about the different types of “stuttering moments”. Here are some of the things that can happen that make up a “stuttering moment”:
- incomplete syllable repetitions (“whe-whe-whe-when”)
- syllable repetitions (“when-when-when”)
- multisyllabic unit repetitions (“when I-when I-when I”)
- mouth, jaw, and/or lips stop moving
- can have with audible airflow or no audible airflow
- also known as “blocks”
- verbal (e.g. saying “um” or “well”)
- non-verbal (e.g. breath holding, blinking, grimacing, grunting, eyebrow raising)
If you experience one or more of these stuttering moments, and if it’s a concern to you, then you ‘have a stutter’.
2. Early treatment is best (in childhood)
There is strong research evidence that early treatment can eliminate stuttering in children. As we are not a service for children, we are not going to dwell on stuttering treatments for children here. Suffice to say, if you know of a child who stutters, you should start thinking about addressing it.
Somewhat unfortunately, if stuttering is persistent (that is, if it continues into adulthood), research evidence indicates that treatment will not eliminate the stutter. The goal of treatment for an adult who stutters is to control the stutter, or deal with its effects.
3. The Camperdown Program is an evidence-based treatment for persistent stuttering
We are extremely fortunate in Australia to lay claim to some of the world leaders in stuttering research and treatment design. The Australian Stuttering Research Centre is based at the University of Technology, Sydney.
One of the treatments designed by this team is the Camperdown Program. It is a speech restructuring treatment. Clients are taught to speak in a new way, which is as stutter-free and natural-sounding as possible. It might also be known as ‘prolonged speech’, ‘smooth speech’, ‘easy speech’, or ‘fluency shaping’. The Camperdown Program has 4 stages.
- Stage 1: learning treatment components (usually weekly, one-hour sessions)
- Stage 2: establishing stutter-free speech (usually weekly, one-hour sessions)
- Stage 3: generalisation (usually weekly, sessions might be held in different locations or be shorter in duration)
- Stage 4: maintenance (one-hour sessions, becoming less frequent)
A systematic review in 2019 confirmed that treatment for persistent stuttering has stronger evidence than any other stuttering treatment.
4. It is very common for adults who stutter to also experience anxiety
For adults who have lived a lifetime of speaking with a stutter, it is no surprise that there might be some degree of anxiety about speaking and socialising. It is for this reason that treatment for stuttering works best if we address BOTH stuttering and anxiety.
There is fantastic news on this front. There is a FREE, online treatment for stuttering-related anxiety. It’s called iGlebe and here’s an excerpt from their website: “Clinical trials involving 23 countries support its effectiveness. Our latest trial suggests that iGlebe produces similar benefits to regular, in-clinic CBT with a clinical psychologist. iGlebe is effective CBT at no cost to end users!”
Of course an online anxiety treatment might not be for everyone. If you prefer treatment with someone local, your best bet is to speak with your GP about accessing a mental health care plan, and referral to a Clinical Psychologist of your choice.
5. There is support available
In addition to seeing a speech pathologist for treatment of your stutter, you might find it helpful to connect with other people who stutter. Your speech pathologist might be able to hook you up with some connections. The other option is to contact the Australian Speak Easy Association. They run regular “maintenance” days for people who have completed a stuttering treatment, so that you can practice your stutter-free speech and network with other people in a similar situation. These meetings can be face to face or online.