There are at least two answers to this question. One is that you may have to improve your speech to get what you want. This can involve getting friends, getting grades, getting parts in plays, getting jobs, getting promotions, getting respect-the list is endless. Another more important answer is if your speech bothers you enough to want to do something about it. A version of the same answer is if you want to feel more accepting of yourself as a person. These together form the best reason for seeking help because you will be doing it for yourself.
Self-help has a big plus. One is that even if you’re working alone, the fact that you are trying to help yourself shows your determination to not let stuttering run your life. If you bring that much determination to therapy, then your chances of success are vastly better than if you go to therapy hoping that the clinician will do something to you or for you that will make life easier.
What therapy can do is to help you to help yourself. A clinician can give you enough distance from your problems to get things into focus. No matter how determined you are to improve, it will be unnecessarily frustrating and slow if you don’t know how to go about helping yourself.
The longer you wait to start, the greater the pressure you will feel to improve your speech. As big as those pressures may seem to you now, they’ll seem even bigger the closer you get to job hunting or college. Don’t wait until your last semester to start. Therapy is not an overnight business. It takes time, especially for progress that will stay with you. Although you can improve in a matter of weeks, if not days, improvement can evaporate just as quickly as you learned it. All you’ll have left is fog if you don’t practice frequently and put what you’ve learned to the test on the tough words and sounds, to say nothing of the tough situations you’ve tried to avoid. Give yourself years, but at the very least months, if you expect therapy to work.
No one has found a cure for stuttering. If you hear of anyone who claims a cure, steer clear. This does not mean that some do not improve so much that they think of themselves as cured. When that happens, though, it’s the exception, not the rule. If you are determined to cope with stuttering, you can improve your speech and you can improve how you feel.
No. Probably not, at least as far as giving you answers to whether you’ll get the help you’re looking for. The problem is in knowing what the claims mean. Does 98 percent success mean cure, fluency improved, feel better, or what? Many therapists could claim 100 percent success if every little improvement in fluency meant success. But that improvement would be so small as to have no meaning.
Good therapists don’t make such claims. If a clinician hesitates to let you talk to anyone they’ve seen, or observe their therapy, or steer you to just certain former clients, or use testimonials from satisfied clients, or show a slick commercial example of their success, you should be cautious. They may advertise, but the better they are, the more discrete their advertising is likely to be. Good clinicians have nothing to hide. They’re open for inspection.
If you’ve had therapy before and it didn’t help, you’re probably convinced it won’t help. Worse, you may be feeling guilty because you think it’s your fault that therapy didn’t work.
Don’t despair. There is hope. For one thing, the clinician you had may not have specialized in stuttering. Many therapists don’t know enough about it to be of much help, but there are specialists available.
The fact is that many who are helped most were sure there was no hope. If you have doubts but still are willing to try, talk to people who have been through different therapy programs. Good clinicians can put you in touch with most of the people they’ve seen. See for yourself how their speech sounds, as well as how they feel about it and themselves. Find out how much help they feel they got. Their outcome won’t guarantee your outcome, but they will give you a clue as to what to expect.
In the best of all possible worlds, no. Especially if you are just beginning therapy. Until you made substantial progress, 30 minutes a week, even an hour a week, is like going to the movies and seeing nothing but previews… Momentum helps and it’s tough to get it even with a couple of hours a week. Still, if you can only get an hour or so a week, progress will be slow but it is possible. Later on, when you know what you’re about and are moving out on your own, brief weekly sessions can be particularly useful.
When parents have concerns about their child’s persistent stuttering, it is highly recommended that they contact a speech-language pathologist who has expertise in stuttering. The American Speech-Language Hearing Association’s (ASHA) Division 4-Fluency, suggests parents look for a Board Recognized Fluency Specialist. Speech pathologists with this distinction have received extensive training and experience in the diagnosis and treatment of stuttering disorders.
Individuals looking for referrals in their area for fluency specialists can contact the Stuttering Foundation of America (SFA) for a referral list. You may call the SFA at 1-800-992-9392, or visit their website at www.stuttersfa.org.
Differential diagnosis is the key to effective early intervention. It is critical to have your child evaluated by a speech-language pathologist with fluency expertise in order to accurately determine whether your child’s disfluencies are normal or abnormal.
Therapists help people who stutter several different ways. No single therapy or therapist is right for everyone.
The Stuttering Foundation can steer you to specialized help, but you’ll have to decide if the therapist is for you. The only way you’ll find out is to give whoever it is a try. First impressions aren’t always right, but if you have strong objections, this therapist may just be wrong for you.
Finding the right clinician to help you isn’t like finding a mechanic for your car or a surgeon for your appendix. Skill and knowledge alone aren’t enough. Until you find a therapist who is both skilled and really cares about you, keep shopping.
Understanding stuttering can be a part of an employer’s ongoing efforts to make the workplace more user-friendly for all people. Greater understanding of speech handicaps provides benefits both for the organization and all the people who work there.
Eliminating Stereotypes About Stuttering
- People who stutter are as intelligent and well-adjusted as non-stutterers.
- Don’t assume that people who stutter are prone to be nervous, anxious, fearful, or shy. While stuttering behaviors may sometimes resemble the behaviors of non-stutterers who experience these emotions, people who stutter exhibit the same full range of personality traits as those who do not.
- Stuttering is not the result of emotional conflict or fearfulness.
- People who stutter often have excellent communication skills. They should not be seen as deficient at verbal communication. Some people who stutter are very often qualified for and interested in positions requiring them to deal with members of the public on a daily basis.
- People who stutter have the same ambitions and goals for advancement as non-stutterers. To an extent consistent with their abilities, they should be offered leadership opportunities and paths for promotion within an organization.
- Stuttering varies widely in different people and varies in the same person over different times and places. People who stutter often have “good” and “bad” days with their speech.
- For people who stutter, a job interview is perhaps the single most difficult speaking situation they will ever encounter and is not indicative of how they would speak on the job. It is important to consider the actual job requirements and conditions before ruling out a candidate for employment because of his speech impediment.
- Some people who stutter less severely may not acknowledge their condition publicly for fear of losing their jobs or being denied promotions. By feeling forced to keep their condition a secret, they place themselves under enormous stress. This can impact their own job performance as well as that of their colleagues.
People Who Stutter On The Job: Helpful Strategies
- Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) can be very helpful by maintaining information on stuttering so that employees with questions-for themselves and their children-can be referred to the appropriate professionals.
- The best way to approach an employee’s stuttering is through honest communication. By refraining from making assumptions about the person’s job-related abilities and skills, both the employee and employer can effectively achieve their goals.
- Refrain from making remarks like: “Slow down,” “Take a Breath,” or “Relax.” Such advice can be felt as patronizing and is not constructive.
- Maintain eye contact and try not to look embarrassed or alarmed. Just wait patiently and naturally until the person is finished.
- Be aware that people who stutter usually have more trouble controlling their speech on the telephone. Saying “Hello,” in particular, often presents a special problem. Please be extra patient in this situation.
- People sometimes ask if they should ask the person questions about his or her stuttering. This is something we must leave to your judgement. But surely, stuttering should not be a taboo subject. If you have a question about it, the person will probably appreciate your interest. It is of mutual benefit that it be talked about openly. You should be prepared that some people who stutter will be sensitive about it, but if you follow the rules of common courtesy, you should be fine.
- The person’s stuttering sometimes makes it harder to understand what he or she is saying. If you do not understand what is said to you, do not be afraid to say “I’m sorry, I didn’t understand what you just said.” No matter how much of a struggle it was for them to say it, this is preferable to your pretending you understood, or guessing what his or her communication was.
- Set a relaxed pace when possible, using a moderate rate of speech yourself.
- In general, let the person know by your manner and actions that you are listening to what he or she is saying and not how he or she is saying it. Be yourself. Be a good listener!
Many people, whether they stutter or not, have difficulty using the telephone. Listen to some non-stutterers dealing with phone calls. Some take several seconds to answer. Others may say “Um” and “Ah” a lot. Others may be very expressive with their hands or faces, perhaps talking loudly and aggressively. Using the phone can cause a great deal of anguish, and each person must learn to cope with it in his or her own way. If, as a person who stutters, you have a problem using the telephone, then you may find the following advice helpful.
Making Calls To Others
Making a call can usually be split into three phases: preparation, the call, assessing how you did.
- Preparation: Make sure you know why you are calling. Write the key points on paper and have it in front of you when you call. Try phoning a friend or relative just before the big call. This may help relax you. If you have a number of calls to make, list them in ascending order. Start with the easiest and work your way up to the most difficult. Do not keep putting off the call you need to make. That will make it even more stressful and difficult.
- The Call: Quite often the difficult part is getting through to the right person. If you are confronted by a switchboard operator, for example, would an extension number or department be easier to say than someone’s name? Have some alternative first words in mind; be flexible in what you want to say. If you do start to block, stutter openly, gently and easily; try not to force the words out and most importantly remember to speak slowly.
- Do not worry too much about silences; they occur in all conversations. Concentrate on what you have to say, rather than worry about any blocks. Your purpose is to communicate, whether you stutter or not. Pay attention to your fluent speech. Many stutterers forget about their times of fluency and dwell on the stuttering. Savor your fluency; make other calls when feeling more fluent; strike while the iron is hot. Fluent speech breeds confidence, and confidence breeds fluent speech.
- Watching yourself in a mirror while phoning can be helpful as you will be able to see where the tension lies in your face and other parts of your body. If you persevered with a difficult call and felt you communicated well, then praise or treat yourself and remember the good feeling that a successful call gave you.
- Assessing How You Did: Most people, not just those who stutter, sometimes make calls when they feel they have been less than fluent or have not managed to get their message across.
- If you felt that a particular call was stressful and you stuttered more than usual, try to forget it. Adopt a positive attitude; remember there will be other conversations when you will stutter less. It is not a disaster to stutter, and you can learn from each speaking experience. At home, tape-record your telephone conversations if you can. Note your speech carefully, especially the speed and the lead up to any blocks. Try to learn from each recording, and prepare a strategy for the next call. Doing this over a period of time will help to identify certain recurring problems and words.
This is the area over which you have least control. However, even here you can go part way to easing some of the pressure you may feel. Always answer the call in your own time. Don’t rush to the telephone. Again have key word options ready: your extension number, name of your organization, or even just your name. Use whatever comes easiest to you at that moment.
If you receive a call within earshot of other people, concentrate solely on that call. Accept that others may hear and see you block, but do not allow their presence to distract you from your phone call. Don’t be afraid of initial silence on the phone if you struggle for your first word. It is quite common for someone to answer the phone and then not speak, either because they’re finishing a conversation with a colleague or because they have picked up someone else’s phone and are waiting for them to return to their seat.
The person phoning you may also stutter. Be patient with others who may be just as anxious as you and may be putting into practice some of the above points.
General Advice for making Phone Calls
- Practice should help you to feel happier about using the telephone
- Confront your fear of the telephone. Talk about what it is that you fear happening and what you can do about it.
- Try to be aware of situations where you avoid using the telephone and gradually tackle these calls. Make the most of local calls for practice. Choose to use the telephone rather than write letters.
- Try to be the person in your household who answers the telephone. Openly admit that you stutter. This may be very difficult if you have avoided talking about it all your life. Practice talking about your stuttering. Many people have said that talking about it has reduced their anxiety and fear.
- Watch and listen to non-stutterers using the phone. Listen to their lack of fluency and their hesitation.
- Give others the benefit of the doubt. If they know you stutter then they are prepared to expect some silences.
- Finally practice, practice, practice. Do not let that modern-day piece of plastic dominate your life. It is far better to use the phone and stutter than to avoid using the phone.
Please click here to see our Developmental Levels of Disfluency chart.
Please visit our stuttering facts page to learn interesting facts about stuttering.
The Stuttering Foundation of America provides helpful information on their web site: Insurance Coverage