Control your stutter

October 2, 2015

Children, adolescents and adults from all cultures, languages and countries stutter. Around 1% of the world’s population experiences stuttering at any given time and as many as 5% across a lifetime.  That is a common problem indeed given there are over 7 billion of us on earth!

Stuttering is a speech disorder that causes interruptions in the rhythm or flow of speech. It affects more males than females and usually begins in childhood.  Stuttering may vary across the lifespan with changes in type and severity and may increase or decrease or seem to go away for periods of time.  It also tends to run in families.

There are many theories and popular beliefs about what causes stuttering.  Despite extensive brain and behavioural research into stuttering over the past 50 years, the exact cause still remains unknown. Stuttering is thought to be a physical disorder and importantly not thought to be caused by psychological or psychiatric factors such as nervousness, anxiety, stress or self-esteem issues (except in rare cases).

Interestingly, bilingual speakers or people who speak multiple languages and who stutter, commonly report that their stutter is more apparent in their first (dominant) language.  This may have something to do with the relative automaticity of the first language which does not occur until they have reached greater proficiency with subsequent languages.

We also know that when people who stutter, speak using an accent or in a way that is not their usual style, when they sing or when they speak on their own, without an audience, they may not stutter at all.  Some actors or singers who stutter when they speak in their normal voices, may not stutter at all when they speak in the voice or accent of their character, or when they sing. I recommend watching Megan Washington’s TED talk about her ability to sing fluently although she stutters when she speaks. Here’s the link:

What can be done?  Clinical trials show that ‘speech restructuring’ is the most effective treatment for adults who stutter.  This involves using a novel speech pattern to control stuttering, aiming to sound as natural as possible.  Speech Pathologists help clients learn the pattern which starts as a slow drawl and moves towards ever more natural sounding fluent speech.  Have a listen to some examples of the slow pattern used initially in the training model for the Camperdown Program, an Australian speech restructuring program.  If you have a stutter, try and imitate it.  Does it feel like you have more control of your speech?  Here’s the link:

Lana specialises in helping adolescents and adults who stutter using this and other treatment approaches.  Get in touch.