Speech disorders can significantly influence a person’s quality of life. Moreover, it makes it difficult for them to express their thoughts and communicate with others. So it’s not just a matter of looking confident but being able to speak to people comfortably as well as confidently.
Stammering and stuttering are common speech impediments. Though used interchangeably by many, the two are, in fact, different. Stammering is when you can’t get the word out, resulting in part word repetitions (so-so-sorry) or sound prolongations (ssssorry), while stuttering is more of a fluency disorder.
Symptoms of stuttering can vary from person to person as well as across speaking situations. Often, stress, fatigue, or social anxiety are stutter triggers. For example, speaking before a group or talking on the phone can become an issue.
Stuttering- a cause for concern
Surprisingly, stuttering affects more than 70 million people all over the world. It’s more common among males than females. About 5–10% of children between the ages of 2-5 develop a stutter, but 75% usually don’t even require treatment. However, early intervention can help children overcome the disorder quicker.
Unfortunately, for the remaining 25%, the problem can carry on to adulthood. And though there is no medicine to cure stuttering, it can be managed quite effectively. Treatments typically generate greater positive results when introduced at an early stage.
Does speech therapy really help?
Speech therapy can be effective in helping individuals gain control over their speech, while CBT and mindfulness interventions indirectly resolve underlying aspects influencing stuttering.
Depending upon the severity of the stutter, the results of speech therapy can be rather impressive. According to Lee Lovett, 90% of those whom he actively coached stopped stuttering, and less than 5% relapsed. But generally speaking, some adults continue to experience stuttering throughout their lives.
Seeking professional help can significantly help manage the condition. There are a variety of options, but the preferred choice of many is speech therapy. In fact, going to a speech therapist is recommended irrespective of age if a stutter gets worse. A therapist can assess a situation better by:
- Noticing when a person stutters
- Helping them manage situations when stuttering sticks
- Teaching them to slow down their speech
- Working towards developing a natural and fluid speech pattern
- Identifying trigger words
Although a person may not stop stuttering completely, there are short- and long-term treatments that can help improve speech fluency.
Tips and tricks to manage stutter
Ideas to help a child overcome a stutter include:
- Avoid finishing the child’s thoughts.
- Gently tell them to breathe deeply and start again.
- Limit the use of phrases such as “slow down” or “take your time,” which can sometimes make a child more conscious about the problem
- Model an easy, relaxed way of talking.
- Maintain openness and patience. Give the child time to finish his or her thoughts.
- Set aside time to talk to your child without distractions.
- Listen attentively and focus on what the child is saying rather than how it’s being said.
- Offer praise rather than criticism.
- Speaking to a teacher if other students are bullying the child at school.
- Reduce exposure to stressful situations such as putting in the spotlight or forcing them to speak in front of others.
General guidelines for adults are:
Breathe deeply and let go of the frustration, anxiety, stress, or any other negative emotion.
- Slow down
Rushing to complete a thought can cause a person to stammer. Take a few moments to collect your thoughts before speaking. Consider pausing between phrases and sentences to slow down your speech. In fact, practicing to speak slowly can reduce stress, and hence stuttering.
- Feel at ease with yourself
Try reading aloud at a slow pace. Now practice this style in front of others. Talk to people you feel comfortable with, in a relaxed environment.
- Avoid trigger words
For some people, particular words can cause them to start stuttering. To circumvent such a situation, it may be advisable to refrain from using them. Make a list of the words that are causing problems and find suitable alternates.
- Use special electronic devices or apps
This is where technology can really come to the rescue. There are numerous devices and apps to assist stutterers in managing speech patterns and enhancing fluency. Consider asking a speech-language pathologist for advice when purchasing any electronic device available in the market aimed at dealing with stuttering.
Other forms of long-term help
Whether it’s a child or adult, everyone needs support from friends and family to overcome a challenging situation. A stutter is just that. Though young children need more TLC than grownups, some general guidelines for both include:
- Listening attentively
- Maintaining appropriate eye contact
- Avoiding interrupting, correcting, or criticizing
- Minimizing stress
You need to connect with people who understand what you are going through. But more importantly, these groups provide stutterers with additional resources that can help resolve or manage the condition. Moreover, they can learn about effective strategies others have used as well. For example, Speech Anxiety Cures Inc. (SAC) utilizes The Lovett Method to help individuals overcome speech anxieties and impediments.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
This is a type of treatment that allows individuals to alter their way of thinking about certain situations and their style of speech. Here, you can learn to identify and change thoughts that are making your stutter worse. The goal is to create a positive mindset and attitudes to lessen stress and anxiety related to stuttering. Moreover, it aids in boosting self-esteem.
CBT strategies include:
- Educating a person or family members about stuttering
- Relaxation techniques, including deep breathing and humming
- Quelling negative thoughts
- Problem-solving methods
Stuttering, like other disorders, requires an individual to control the thought process. So instead of focusing on avoidance strategies, you need to work on accepting your situation and improving your emotional state.
With the right training and guidance, a person not only learns to manage the stutter but also gains a significant amount of confidence to participate in daily activities and social settings. You can teach yourself to speak better in any situation.