“So, I’ve come to you to learn not to stutter, and you want me to stutter more?” Making no sense to me, I agreed to follow her plan, to stutter purposely because somehow that was going to help “cure” my stuttering. Priscilla, the speech pathologist, seemed to offer hope and a new way. But would that way do anything for me? Ok, so stutter purposely…in public three times every day. I got it. She wrote my homework in a mini, spiraled notebook. This session was one of the first in about 4 months of speech therapy. Even as I practiced purposely stuttering that night with her, my face went flush, beads of sweat formed on my forehead. Ok, I’ll do it again. I’ll do it during the next week. Heart pumping, racing thoughts, I rationalized my new homework as I drove home. I can do this, follow the plan, and have faith. More thoughts jumped in my head driving home. Why now, why did this have to stick in my mind? Can’t I just stop thinking about this problem? I don’t want it. I don’t stutter; I just get stuck once in a while. Oh, that’s not true. I’ve been cursed. Can you believe this? I’m going to embarrass myself if I stutter purposely in public, but I can’t go back. Yes, I can, no I can’t. Priscilla has a plan and I need to follow it. I’ll just keep changing words when I can’t say them. It’s worked for 31 years, why not the next 31. I’ll just get over stuttering; I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing. I’ll be ok.....Fine, I’ll do the homework. Little did I know that Priscilla wanted me to use pseudostuttering, or fake stuttering, to show me that I can develop some control over my speech and she wanted to desensitize me to my stuttering.
No matter what age, it’s important to remember that stuttering influences a person’s entire being, causing some internal conflict as seen in the above example. Stuttering affects a person’s ability to produce fluent speech, saying what you want when you want. It affects emotional well-being, like self-confidence, and a person’s communication skills. Great gains have been made in the treatment of stuttering, especially with preschoolers. Using a behavioral treatment approach called the Lidcombe Program, a speech-language pathologist develops the individual program for the preschooler who stutters. The preschooler’s caregiver is instructed to acknowledge stuttering and praise fluent speech while rating the preschooler’s stuttering on a daily basis. The caregiver continues to meet with the speech pathologist during the program, discussing various settings where the preschooler has success and difficulty maintaining fluent speech. The Licombe Program has shown great results, documented over many years. It is important to remember that if a preschooler is stuttering, then parents should interview speech pathologists to determine if an evaluation and speech therapy are warranted. Parents should discuss expectations and goals for the preschooler as well as cost and length of treatment.Getting treatment early in a child's life can show great success for fluency.
For older children, adolescents, and adults who stutter, many options are available as well. Strategies, taught by a speech pathologist, include stuttering modification and fluency shaping strategies. All of these techniques can decrease stuttering, desensitize feelings towards stuttering, and provide methods to enhance fluency. About one percent of the population stutters and approximately 2.5 percent of children under 5 years old stutter.