Stuttering- sometimes called stammering or childhood-onset fluency disorder – is a complex communication difficulty that is extremely multi-factorial in nature. As a therapist working with people who stutter, I have to consider not only speech production and how the stutter presents itself to others, but also how it affects, and is affected by, the client’s psychological, personal and social processes.
Since working at the Speech Centre, I have worked with a lot of people who stutter of all ages, from toddlers to adults. Therapy options differ for everybody but below is a summary of what therapy with me generally consists of for each population: Children: It is very important for parents to know that just because a child “stutters” or shows dysfluency at a young age, it does not necessarily mean that the child will develop a life-long stutter. Between the ages of 18 months and 7 years, many children have periods of dysfluency that come and go. Most of these children will not develop a stutter.
If you are worried about your young child, feel free to give me a call to discuss your concerns and see if an appointment would be indicated. In general, I will give parents some strategies to make it easier for the child to express him/herself in a friendly communication environment, and advise parents to check-in again after trialling the strategies. These are often very successful!
If your child is a little older, therapy may include working with parents, teachers and carers to create a safe speaking environment for the child, as well as working directly with the child on identifying the problem, desensitising the child to it and teaching the child skills that will help them accept and manage the stutter. The goal of therapy for these children is to create a “toolbox” of skills and strategies that means that they are in control of their speech.
Teens & Adults: I see a lot of adults and adolescents in the clinic. Often times, they have internalised that their stutter is a negative part of them, and they have built an array of techniques to avoid, hide and cover stuttering. In the therapy room, we work on bringing the stutter to the surface, so that we can address the fear and other negative emotions associated with it. I use a lot of exercises derived from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which looks at thoughts, feelings & actions and how they are all interlinked in the framework of stuttering. Techniques and strategies to “ease” the stutter also come into play after a while. The goal of therapy here is not to achieve “smooth speech” or “perfect fluency”. Rather, it is to work towards acceptance of the stutter and integration of all parts of the person, ultimately achieving an “easy stutter” i.e. a stutter that is not accompanied by tension, struggle or underlying negative associations.
Coline Samzun is based in our Mount Merrion branch in South Co. Dublin. However for those unable to travel, who fall within a vulnerable category, or who live too far from the clinic for face-to-face therapy to be practical, she also offers an online therapy service (teletherapy or telehealth).