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May 27, 2023

Finding Help When You Stutter

Zach is a person who stutters and has been on a journey to find the right therapies to help him with his communication needs and wants. In this honest blog, Zach gives three main points of advice to help others in a similar journey understand what is possible.

Finding help when you stutter looks different for everyone. While there is no definitive cure for stuttering, there are resources that help - including the right speech therapist, finding a local or online community, and apps like Stutter Stars. All three of these options can be hugely beneficial to someone who stutters and make a real impact on their quality of life.

Speech Therapy

Stuttering is a challenge. You aren’t in this alone, even though it may feel that way. A good speech therapist can make a world of difference when dealing with your stutter.

Fortunately, there are a number of resources available to help you find a speech therapist that’s right for you:

  • Stuttering Specialists is an extensive website maintained by The Specialty Board on Fluency Disorders and provides a list of speech and language pathologists who have advanced training in stuttering and meet peer-reviewed standards as board-recognized specialists. In addition to contact information, the website offers tips on how to choose an SLP that’s right for you, as well as specific questions to ask to help narrow down your search.

Finding the right SLP is a process. Stuttering is a complicated disorder and there are many ways and approaches to treating it. These approaches fall largely into two main camps: Speak Freely and behavioral/motoric therapy. 

The Speak Freely approach focuses on the acceptance aspects of speech therapy. The emphasis is placed on the emotions and feelings that come up surrounding a stutter and seek to encourage the client to have a better relationship with their stutter as it exists today.

Behavioral/motoric therapy, on the other hand, aims to change a client's stutter through the use of fluency or communication techniques. These techniques or strategies include light contact, easy onset, and prolongations just to name a few. Their purpose is to change the way you talk in order to decrease the amount you stutter, with the end goal being natural-sounding speech.

These two ideas are by no means mutually exclusive, and you’ll hopefully find an SLP discussing both the emotional and motoric elements of your disfluency. 

It may take a few consultations before you feel comfortable committing to one approach, but perhaps more importantly, you’ll have to see how you connect with your therapist. You may find the right fit off the bat or you might want to explore other options. This process can take time. It’s understandable to want to start treatment right away, but try not to rush and only move forward when you’re feeling completely comfortable. 

Camps, Groups, and Chapters

The first time I met someone else who stuttered was at a get-together my speech therapist encouraged me to attend. I was in my mid-20s and had no idea the impact it would have on me. As cliche as it sounds, you aren’t in this alone. There are thousands of people who feel like you do now and have made it to a better tomorrow. Finding a community of people who have an understanding of your experience can be profound. I so wish I had that experience at an earlier age. 

The National Stuttering Association has created a great list of workshops, intensive programs, and summer classes that help people of all ages who stutter.

In addition to being a great online resource, the NSA has nearly 200 local chapters for Adults, Families, Teens, and Kids. These local chapters meet monthly and can be an easy way to meet people who stutter. They provide a truly safe place for people to share their stuttering experience and to hear what it’s like for others.

Stutter Stars

Stutter Stars is an app that allows you to work on your speech where you are. It’s another new option that can be used alone or in combination with the above items. Each level/island introduces a new technique to learn and eventually master. The gamification of the exercises leads to hours of effective practice without it feeling like a chore. 

You’ll learn how to speak under pressure, better control your vocal cords, change your speech rate, and work on your pitch range. There are even mindfulness exercises included to help tackle some of the negative thoughts and emotions that are so often associated with stuttering. 

Stutter Stars has carefully designed readouts and graphs that allow speech and language pathologists to monitor and track their client's progress, making it the perfect addition to any existing practice.

There’s no easy solution to stuttering. There’s no one stuttering treatment that will solve all of your problems overnight. But, with the right team and tools at your disposal, life-changing improvement is possible. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, find a community that can support you, and get access to the right tools for your needs. 

You got this.

Zach Greene

Zach holds a bachelor's degree in English from the University of California Santa Barbara with a minor in the Classics and a specialization in Literature and the Mind. Zach is a freelance writer and creator, and is also a person who stutters.

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