How to treat stuttering
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The skills you will learn in the Fluency Friends are based on motoric and prosodic techniques of speech to help people learn to speak fluently while also sounding natural. The games are designed to target the parts of brain involved in speech timing, rhythm, prosody, stress, and motor speech.
The striatum (deep part in the brain) is responsible for getting speech started. By slowly extending the sound at the beginning of a word or phrase, we greatly help the initiation of speech and reduce the chances of a stutter. On this island, we practice easing into the beginning of each word, consequently extending the initial speech sound.
When a person who stutters encounters a stuttering event like a block, prolongation, or (partial) word repetition, the moment the stutter is over, there is a tendency to speak quickly to catch up for the lost moment. By speaking at a low constant rate, we practice what it feels like to keep the speech movements continuously moving. The physiological phenomenon of keeping the vocal cords moving throughout a sentence, greatly reduces the chances of encountering a stuttering event.
With this exercise, we practice bringing the vocal cords together so that they vibrate. We call this ‘turning on’ the vocal cords.This fundamental principle teaches people who stutter that a stuttering event will not happen while the vocal cords are pulsating together. This island also focuses on sounds that can be spoken for a long time, like the word ‘eat’ (eeeeat). This way, we can immediately start to feel the sensation of vocal fold vibrations without getting stuck.
Many people who stutter speak without changing the pitch of their voices very much. To listeners, they might sound uninterested in the topic of conversation due to a flat affect. On this island, we practice changing the pitch. This exercise works on lengthening and shortening the vocal folds which is excellent practice for vocal fold control.
When we say nursery rhymes, we activate the Basal Ganglia Thalamo Cortical circuit (in the center of the brain) which helps process beat-based timing. On this island, you will be using your voice to say well-known nursery rhyme phrases by saying a phrase, and then pausing, and then continuing, one line at a time. Training this part of the brain activates many areas rich in supporting fluency.
Cortical hormones are famously known as the 'stress' hormones. When people get nervous, frustrated, anxious, cortical levels climb really high. Breathing and relaxation exercises have been shown to reduce cortical levels. In the game, whenever the player is having a hard time, or moving on to something brand new, a mindfulness game will be played. For example, crossing over to another island in a sail boat. Take a deep breath, and watch the sail open and the boat glide through the water. Play the game, use your voice, and lower stress, all at the same time.