Sunday, March 9, 2008

"Stuttering Found Me" : Support and the National Stuttering Association

By Carla Bevilacqua

Being a teen is hard. But being a teen who stutters is so much harder. I know what you’re thinking: “what does this person know?” Well folks, I know. I’ve been there, I stutter.

Let me digress with a brief history of myself so this makes sense. I didn’t know I stuttered until I was 23 years old. When I was young, my parents asked my doctor about my speech and he told them I would grow out of it. By the sixth grade, when I didn’t grow out of it, my teacher made a recommendation to my parents that I go see a speech therapist. I saw two therapists over the next two years who both told me that I did not stutter. They informed me that what I had was distinctly different and that it was a dysfluency issue called prolonging. For years I chose to accept what they told me, but since entering school in Speech and Hearing Sciences, I have had no choice but to become informed and have realized that those words are just other terms for stuttering. So here I am, 25 years old, still getting used to being a “stutterer.” Don’t get me wrong though, just because I didn’t have the title STUTTERER branded on me like a scarlet letter doesn’t mean that I didn’t experience all the typical feelings, anxiety, fears, and bullying of someone who stutters.

When I was a teen I didn’t know anyone else who stuttered or who had any kind of speech difficulties and this caused me to feel very alone. These thoughts are completely normal in teen years – well actually, even into adults years – but it has made all the difference for me to meet other people who stutter. A woman who stutters spoke in one of our classes last year and I had a discussion with her afterward in which she revealed that she was an active, and very involved, member of the National Stuttering Association (NSA). She continued to explain that talking to other people who stutter and sharing common experiences changed her life. That day, as soon as I got home, I looked up the NSA online and became a member. However, it was months before I took the initiative to go to one of their monthly meetings. Now, the NSA is a place where I can express my fears, happiness, anger, excitement, or trepidation about past, or coming experiences. It is a place where you can realize that your stuttering doesn’t own your life. Possibly one of my biggest battles with my speech is the fear that when I stutter, people will doubt my intelligence or knowledge of a subject matter, and therefore think that I don’t know what I’m talking about, or worse, that I’m stupid. The NSA has helped me to realize that my stuttered speech matters far more to me than it ever will to someone else.

For a crash course on the NSA and what the organization stands for, below is their mission statement: “The National Stuttering Association is a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing hope, dignity, support, education and empowerment to children and adults who stutter and their families, and the professionals who serve them.” The NSA began in 1977 in California, and was mainly formed in order to establish self-help groups where people could gather together, share their experiences, and gain strength and encouragement from each other. Today, the NSA has over 80 local chapters nationwide where those who stutter can go and know that they are not alone. For a complete history of the NSA, finding your local chapter, or more information in general, please visit their website at

Want to hear more from people who stutter?
visit the International Stuttering Awareness Day Online Conference at and click on links under “The Experts (PWS) Speak for Themselves.”

Coming Events In The NSA!

If you live in the Seattle/Tacoma area, the NSA is hosting their annual Youth Day and Adult Workshop on Saturday, March 8th. Teens are welcome to come, meet new people, and share experiences with peers in a supportive environment.

The annual NSA conference is coming up! This year it is in the New York/New Jersey area from June 25th-29th, 2008. People who stutter come from all over the country to gain camaraderie with those like them. There will be workshops, motivational speakers, and a weekend of opportunities to meet new people!

If you live in the Seattle/Tacoma area, there is a TWST (for teens who stutter ages 13-19) group that meets every last Friday of the month in Auburn. There are regular meetings in Seattle the first Tuesday of every month and on the Eastside the third Wednesday of every month. Visit their website at for more information, or to find your local support group!

MTV True Life : "I Stutter"

Overview Of Stuttering

“If ten speech-language pathologists were asked to define stuttering, they would come up with eleven definitions.” – Culatta & Goldberg, 1995

Stuttering is a multidimensional disorder that varies greatly among those who stutter. The effects of the disorder on the speaker go beyond the person’s speech and can greatly influence everyday life. Research shows that there is either no difference or non significant differences in intelligence between those who stutter and those who do not.

Stuttering affects more males than females. Stuttering can be developmental, which means it comes on during typical childhood development, or acquired. One can acquire stuttering after a neurologic event such as a stroke or traumatic brain injury or as a result of psychological stress.

One percent of the population currently stutters and five percent of people have stuttered at some point in their life. Developmental stuttering usually begins between the ages of 18 months and 13 years, and 95 percent of stuttering occurs before the age of four (Yairi & Ambrose, 2005). Historically, onset was thought to be gradual, but recent studies show the nature of the onset of stuttering to differ from person to person. How a person stutters over time is also variable (Yairi & Ambrose, 2005). Research also shows a strong genetic component to stuttering.

The core behaviors of stuttering include repetitions, prolongations and blocks. A person can have a repetition on sounds, syllables or single-syllable words. Prolongations seem like drawn out sounds in words and blocks appear to be stoppages in a person’s speech. There are also secondary behaviors that may occur as a result of the person’s attempt to avoid or escape the core behaviors of stuttering. These may include eye blinks, head or limb movements, the use of interjections such as “um” and word substitutions.

Around 75 percent of children who stutter recover without treatment. If natural recovery does not occur within five years of onset, it is likely that stuttering will persist. As mentioned, other indicators of persistent stuttering include family history, gender and age at onset.


1. Culatta, R. & Goldberg, S. A. (1994). Stuttering therapy: an integrated approach to theory and practice. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

2. Yairi, E. & Ambrose, N. (2005). Early Childhood Stuttering. PRO-ED, Inc.

Therapies Geared Toward Teens

There are a variety of treatment therapies available for teenagers and adults who stutter. Unfortunately, no treatment approach offers a quick fix, or a guarantee that therapy will help a person achieve flawless speech. Unlike treating many young children right from the start of their stuttering, treating young adults who stutter is a lot more complicated! Just like any other behavior that has become ingrained in you throughout your entire life, stuttering can be a tough behavior to change. The good news is that many young adults, who may very well be just like you, have seen improvements in their fluency from undergoing various treatments. Some treatment options available for young adults are as follows:
• ISTAR-Comprehensive Stuttering Program is a 3-week intensive, multi-approach program in Canada that has been developed and researched over the past 30 years. It provides 83-90 hours of therapy, as well as an additional hour of home practice each evening. Treatment is provided in both individual and group formats.
The program is designed differently for every person who enters the program, depending upon his or her personal goals and needs. In general, the program focuses on speech-related goals, as well as on emotional and attitudinal goals. Speech goals include learning to sustain controlled fluency in all speaking environments, learning to self-monitor speech and to modify errors, and learning to manage instances of stuttering that remain after treatment. Emotional goals include reducing avoidance behaviors, dealing with negative listener reactions, and managing feelings of fear and anxiety.
ISTAR also incorporates family members into the sessions. Of course, their degree of participation in the sessions is dependent upon the participant’s relationship with them. The program encourages open discussions about stuttering among family and friends. And most importantly, the program allows teens to meet other teens who can relate with many of the same life experiences.
More information on ISTAR can be found at:

Intensive 3 week program, Successful Stuttering Management Program in Spokane, Washington is designed for adults and older teens. In addition to fluency-enhancing techniques, it focuses mostly on the attitudes and feelings associated with stuttering. More information can be found at

The Contingent Time-Out Program focuses on fluency control, relaxation, social skills, problem solving, negotiation, and environmental factors. This program involves having the individual stop speaking for a given amount of time upon an instance of stuttering. Research involving this program can be found here: (

Stutter-Free Speech Program is a very lengthy program that focuses on cognitive elements of stuttering. The program involves 25 hours of therapy, in addition to 50 hours of relapse prevention sessions. It could take over two years to complete.

Regardless of the form of treatment you seek, you will most likely find variations of fluency shaping and stuttering modification techniques. Stuttering modification began in the 1930s with Charles Van Riper, a speech therapist who stuttered, and was based on the idea that stuttering occurs because the person is attempting to avoid their dysfluent speech. The components of this therapy are identifying the moment of stuttering, desensitizing yourself to your speech, cancellation of the word stuttered on, pulling out of the stuttered word and changing the components of your speech while preparing to say a word. Fluency shaping began in the 1960s and consists of prolonged speech, easy phonatory onsets, soft articulatory onsets and continuous airflow.

As with receiving any type of service, it is always a good policy to check the credentials, experience and goals of the person offering treatment. Make sure to always avoid working with anyone who promises a "miracle cure" for stuttering.

Speech Is Just The Tip Of The Iceberg

For those who stutter, their speech merely represents what can be observed by others. But the true paralyzing aspects of the disorder are the associated feelings within the person who stutters. No one can truly understand the depths of these feelings, which is why it is important to recognize how the disorder affects all aspects of your life.

Famous People Who Stutter

What do Marilyn Monroe, Winston Churchill and Moses have in common? They were all people who stuttered. Stuttering did not stop them from pursuing their dreams.

SpeechEasy: A Cure Or False Hope?

A device used in the treatment of stuttering that is inserted in the ear and uses delayed auditory feedback has received coverage and attention over the past few years. The SpeechEasy works by recording and playing back your voice milliseconds after you speak. This simulates choral speaking, which can be a fluency inducing situation. This device often seems like a miracle fix to stuttering, but is shown to only have short term effects as the person habituates to the device. To watch a recent story from the TV show 20/20, click on this link: