I am an undergrad wanting to become a speech-language pathologist and have always been very interested in learning about how to help people who stutter, so I was wondering, how often do you get a patient with a stutter, and how often is it a more severe stutter? Also, is it challenging to help patients with their stutter?

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  1. Hello, and thank you so much for asking questions to the professional panel. Welcome to the amazing world of speech-language pathology! This field is absolutely stunning, and I am so happy to have you in it! I hope that you find it not only rewarding, but that this journey is far more than just a “job” or a “career” but a lifestyle and a purpose/passion. I admire you for asking questions and getting involved this early in your studies- well done!

    Question 1: How often do you get a patient with a stutter, and how often is it a more severe stutter?
    -This is a great question! So, as of right now in the research, stuttering has a 1% incidence in the general population (although we are beginning to think this number could possibly be higher, but this is the researched number that we have right at this moment.) This is still a TON of people when looking at the population of the world. So, we don’t have a lack of people who stutter to treat….. but keep in mind that people who stutter don’t always want speech therapy. My brother is a person who stutters since the age of six, and he is my reason for going into this field, and he has never had speech therapy before. 🙂 With that, I see people who stutter for therapy all of the time because this is the area that I specialize in. It all depends on the clinical setting with which you work. In speaking for practicing in settings in America, if you work in an acute care setting (hospital) you will more than likely never have goals to treat stuttering itself, as you will more often be treating dysphagia (a lot of swallowing) aphasia (immediate functional communication needs immediately post stroke or head injury, for example) and some cognition. If you work in a voice center, you will never treat stuttering and will just treat voice. If you work in a LTAC (Long-Term Acute Care Facility) you will treat a lot of trach/vent patients and will not treat stuttering, and if you work in a SNF (Skilled Nursing Facility) you will also be very unlikely to treat stuttering. You may, however, choose a setting with which you are more likely to treat individuals who stutter including a public school, pediatric clinic, private clinic, stuttering center, telepractice company or outpatient clinic. Speech-language pathologists who are not skilled and trained in treating individuals who stutter do not need to be choosing clinical practice settings with which they treat stuttering, unless they are entering into a situation with which they have mentorship, learning opportunities, continuing education and the guidance they need to properly treat these precious individuals. So to answer your question, it depends on the clinical setting that you are working in. Regarding the portion of your question having to do with stuttering severity; stuttering is a very individualized experience and is not solely diagnosed on the basis of data (counting stuttering moments and types.) There are individuals that stutter more prominently than others, and we do see this frequently, and I tend to use the word “prominent” rather than “severe” (using the word “severe” in front of the person you are seeing for therapy may make them feel badly about their speaking and we don’t want to do that.. I will put “severe” in my clinical report from a diagnosis standpoint, we learn to put a range of severity from mild-moderate-severe) but I tend to verbally use the word “prominence” rather than “severity” but that’s just me, you are just fine in using the word “severity” verbally if your individual in therapy is ok with it.) I couldn’t really say how often I see an individual with more prominent stuttering, but regardless of prominence the initial approach of the therapeutic relationship is the same: the person who stutters expresses goals of therapy and the clinician provides the educational template to help the person who stutters reach their goals using the methodologies that our educational background has taught us to use that the person who stutters is comfortable with and wants. 🙂 If the person who stutters does not know what is wanted from therapy, then as the clinician we can discuss various options of what therapy can look like (does the person want to work on fluency strategies, communication confidence, and how does this all look? how does this make the person feel?) I hope that this helps to answer your questions. 🙂

    Question 2: Also, is it challenging to help patients with their stutter?
    -Awesome question! This is a pretty loaded question, too. So, when you say “challenging”…… Is this a constant learning process? Yes. As it should be. I have practiced in the field of speech-language pathology for almost 12 years and I am always learning, always adjusting what I am doing based on learning, and in all areas of practice that I work in including stuttering even though it is my area of clinical specialty. Even last week I was telling a good friend, that I changed the way I do something clinically with people who stutter. Research is evolving, we are always growing, and it isn’t that I was doing things bad and wrong before, it is just that I learned a new way to say or do something to better serve people who stutter going forward. We absolutely must adjust what we are doing for the betterment of the people that we serve as we go along in our field. Is it “challenging” to treat people who stutter from a like/dislike standpoint? No.. I LOVE treating stuttering- it’s my jam… it’s my fav… and always will be. Treating people who stutter is something I probably can and will never stop doing until I stop practicing in this field all together; it’s a lifestyle and a passion for me. Some speech-language pathologists will tell you that they do not enjoy treating stuttering because you do not get “quick results” like you would in articulation therapy or language therapy, for example. I challenge that to say, what are “quick results?” Do you define “results” as a mastered sound? For me as a clinician, “results” is when a person who stutters feels listened to for the first time on day 1 of meeting them……. that’s HUGE. Therapy with individuals who stutter is so much more than it seems to some clinicians; therapy should also be taken very seriously and as I mentioned in this lengthy response earlier, if you are unprepared and unskilled to treat individuals who stutter as a clinician you shouldn’t be doing so because you can really traumatize a person if you don’t know what you are doing as a clinician…. but, treating people who stutter can also be the best thing ever. I hope this helped! Be well, and be a world changer. Best of luck in your studies.

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