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Early Intervention Holds Hope for Those Who Stutter
Date:5/27/2011

stutter.
  • Neurophysiology. Researchers have found that people who stutter process speech and language differently than people without a stutter.
  • Family dynamics. Pressure to succeed and a fast-paced lifestyle can prompt stuttering in some people.
  • "Stutterers are more vulnerable to a breakdown in the system that includes everything from thinking the thought to translating the thought into actual speaking," Fraser said.

    Therapies for stuttering also have advanced as understanding of the disorder has grown, said Fraser and Tommie L. Robinson Jr., immediate past president of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and a therapist at the Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

    Today, people who stutter receive speech therapy as well as therapy that attempts to get to the psychological or neurophysiological issues that make them more apt to struggle with their speech, Fraser and Robinson said.

    Because of this, it is crucial that a stutterer develop a healthy relationship with his or her therapist, one that goes far beyond teaching techniques to get around a blocked word or sound, Robinson said.

    "They've got to be able to talk about what they're feeling, what's going on inside," he said.

    Therefore, psychotherapeutic techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy are valued just as highly as speech therapy tactics that teach stutterers to speak more slowly and use tricks to get past blocked sounds or syllables, Fraser said.

    Early intervention is also important, Robinson said. The most common form of stuttering develops in early childhood, when a child is learning how to translate thoughts into words, according to the NIH. Developmental stuttering occurs when a child's speech and language abilities can't keep pace with verbal demands placed on the child.

    "If we intervene with people early, we can teach parents to slow their speech and minimize the pressure placed on their kids,"
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