Was speech therapy helpful for you?

Though there is no cure for stuttering, how has speech therapy helped with your stutter, or how has it not? Are there some startegies from speech therapy that have helped more than others?

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Was speech therapy helpful for you? — 3 Comments

  1. Thanks for your important question.

    As stuttering was not accepted when I was young, my parents didn’t take me to an SLP. In fact, we didn’t even talk about stuttering, and the few times we did, it was in a negative way. As an adult, my boyfriend’s mum took me to an SLP. A very nice lady who wanted me to say the names of the week in one breath. Simple, as I played the saxophone. After some other breathing exercises, she didn’t really know what to do with me. Years later someone suggested another SLP, and again it was focused on breathing, so I learned to be more aware of my breathing, but not more. Again years later I met a group of PWS who were doing speech training together, focused on public speaking techniques. Also including breathing, but so much more! I learned not to focus on my stutter, but on how to be a speaker people listen to. And this helped me to stutter less.

    Today more and more SLPs focus on the joy of speaking, saying what you want to say, and getting rid of the shame. This is crucial to add to any type of speech training, as otherwise some kind of fluency can be obtained, but the fear to stutter can be your worst enemy, and can turn you from overt info covert stuttering, where you’re rather silent, than to risk stutter openly. So rather work the other way: being ok with yourself, stuttering and all, being proud of you speaking, no matter how, and going for your dreams. When you feel good about yourself, there’s a fresh soil to plant speech techniques. But make sure they are realistic. To make me sing when ordering a loaf of bread will only make me back out of the clinic (while maybe this might be something for another client). Make sure the techniques you suggest match the client. Some want speech techniques, some want self confidence, some want relaxation, some want mindfulness. And some might just want help for a parent of a friend instead, to understand and to accept one’s stutter.

    So take time to get to know the client, be perceptive, ask the client and show a smorgasbord for the client to choose from. And of the client wants something you’ve never heard of or won’t believe in, at least be open to suggestions. You might be surprised. 😉

    Keep (them) talking and happy ISAD


  2. Thank you for this most interesting question!

    In my own case, I have a multitude of answers, since I estimate I’ve seen something like 30-35 different therapists in my lifetime – with a great variety of therapeutic approaches.
    Of the many clinicians I have seen for speech, I count seven who were significantly helpful to me, and three of those were VERY helpful.

    This answer will be somewhat lengthy, because my therapeutic experiences were so many and varied that it’s not possible for me to answer in a simple way.

    In elementary school (early 1960’s), I went through a parade of school speech therapists, as well as clinicians outside the school system, none of whom had any idea of what to do for my severe stuttering. I was often placed into practice groups of kids with articulation difficulties, simply because the “speech teachers” (as they were called) had no idea what to do with me.

    When I was in high school, I had my first experience with a clinical program that actually helped. I was helped with traditional techniques such as pullouts, reducing secondary symptoms, and reducing avoidances. The lengths and frequency of my blocking, for the first time in my life, started to improve.

    As an undergraduate, I had a number of helpful therapies. One speech pathologist who I saw for three years (who also stuttered himself) gave me some very important advice that I followed the best I could, even though it wasn’t easy. After he got me to admit, with some reluctance on my part, that I had no close friends to speak of, he told me that I MUST get out there and meet people, REGARDLESS of how severe my stuttering happened to be. (And at that time, my severe stuttering was considerably more severe than now.) So I did. On the college campus where I was then a student (I was about 20 years old), I made it a point to meet as many of my fellow students as I could. I still stuttered very severely, but my social life improved immensely, and I discovered a very important fact that I hadn’t realized before – that most people just don’t care how fluent you happen to be; they’re much more interested in your CONTENT, not in how you say it.

    My next therapy seemed almost miraculous. When I was a college senior (in the mid-1970’s), I was involved in an experimental program based on following commands in speaking fluently for increasing lengths of speech units. Eventually I became able to speak fluently for extended periods of time. This didn’t involve techniques, simply a certain mindset. I remember vividly talking fluently on the phone to a friend for an hour, a totally new experience for me – my first fluency ever, outside a speech clinic. (I was then age 21.) I was so absolutely amazed! I had little understanding of WHY this was happening. (My clinicians simply told me that I was “controlling” my speech. But I knew that I wasn’t.) Even today, it’s hard to explain. Eventually a third of my situations became fluent, and another third had reduced disfluency. I told the clinicians that they felt like mysterious “fluency feelings” – which they dismissed as nonsense. But this didn’t last. After about a half-year, it all fell apart. The clinicians wondered why I wasn’t “controlling” my speech any more. But I knew I never had been. This was just something mysterious, with nothing solid behind it.

    Following that, I tried a fluency shaping program in Chicago. But I couldn’t stand the principles shaping the clinic’s strategy. They taught a simplistic technique involving breathing and organizing phrases. I could speak fluently with this technique inside their clinic, but not outside the clinic. In the philosophy of this clinic, once a client learned their technique, the client was expected to use it at all times successfully in the “outside world”. But that I couldn’t do. The clinicians thought there must be some deep-seated internal reason for me not “choosing” to use their technique in these situations, and the staff spent hours with me trying to figure out “why” I was “choosing” to stutter in these situations, rather than use their technique. I knew that was BS – I knew I was simply unable to use their technique in these situations, not that I was “choosing” to stutter.

    I next tried airflow therapy at a clinic in New York City. At first I was able to use the technique inside the clinic, but not outside the clinic. But after the therapy week, for months I diligently practiced the technique daily. And my speech gradually improved – until I was speaking fluently in about a third of my situations, with the airflow technique. I was enjoying my speech progress.
    But eventually my progress fell apart (within a half-year), and my severe stuttering was back in all situations.

    Seven years later (at the age of 30) I entered a program in which I found the most success. This was the Precision Fluency Shaping Program, developed by the Hollins Communications Research Institute, Roanoke, Virginia. In that program I learned specific techniques involving breathing, gentle onsets, and stretched sounds.
    At first, as in other programs, I could just use the techniques inside the clinic.
    But after the three-week program, I practiced very diligently for an hour or more a day. Within three months, I was fluent EVERYWHERE – something I had never before experienced in my life. Indeed I felt that I would never stutter again – I felt “cured”!

    But, alas, I wasn’t. My initial fluency did last for quite a few months. When I practiced intensively and daily, I was consistently fluent. But when I slacked off in practice, my fluency declined, and stuttering returned. Since I couldn’t always practice for an hour a day, I couldn’t maintain the fluency in the long term.
    For years, I had numerous intensive week-long refreshers, trying to bring back the old magic. And indeed I succeeded at this many times following refreshers, enjoying consistent fluency for periods of weeks, and sometimes months. But it was never permanent, and always fell apart eventually.

    For about 15 years, that was the pattern – a fluent period following a refresher, then a disfluent period, then a fluent period following a refresher, then a disfluent period. Over and over again.
    I got tired of this.

    About 20 years ago, I changed my speech philosophy entirely. I decided that fluency was no longer a life goal of mine. I started accepting myself as a person who just happens to stutter. And if I happen to be disfluent, well so what? Life happiness and satisfaction do not depend on consistent fluency of speech. That is a lesson that took me many decades to absorb.
    Once I got rid of my former obsession to be as fluent as I possibly could be at all times, my life happiness increased. Once I got rid of the overwhelming desire to become a fluent person, I began to see life in a new way. I could accept ME, just as I was – and as I am today – a person who happens to have a stuttering difference. That’s all. Enormous pressure was lifted from my shoulders, and I now could enjoy life to the fullest. However I speak, that’s how I speak. And if I’m not the most fluent person in the world, well so what?
    And come to think of it, this new approach – which was total self-therapy – was my best therapy of all!

  3. It wasn’t for me. The student clinicians weren’t interested in helping me with anything but fluency. Their class required them to count stutters, and teach me how to use gentle onset, deep breathing and prolongation techniques.
    I hated it and fiercely resisted and at first didn’t know why.

    Then it finally dawned on me, the student clinicians were viewing stuttering as something that had to be identified as “broken” and that needed to be fixed.

    I was not broken. I did’t want to learn techniques to hide my stuttering, something I had tried to do all my life. I wanted a SLP to affirm to me that stuttering was OK, it was just a different way of talking.

    I worked with about three or four different student therapists, as a new one came in at the start of a new semester. Only ONE student had the courage to “buck the system” and work with me towards acceptance. As I began to flourish, she stopped worrying about falling out of compliance with classroom goals and focused more on helping me to break down self loathing and shame, and celebrated with me when I communicated well as a stutterer.

    Thats the perspective I’d really like more SLPs to try and adopt.


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