Recent Advances in Stuttering Treatments

Stuttering is a disruption of speech fluency, which may be instigated by different things for different people. It may be evidenced by a lack of sound forming or the repetition of words or sounds in a sentence, creating disfluencies.

Changes in the Perception of Stuttering

One of the key aspects of finding successful treatment for stuttering is the now-recognized fact that stuttering is not the result of psychological trauma, although it may be the cause. People with a stutter often feel trapped and unable to communicate effectively without being mocked or ridiculed for what is actually a neurological difference in the parts of the brain where language forms and the movements required to make speech are learned.

Thus, the National Stuttering Association has been fighting a lack of funding to create speech therapy for stuttering that focuses on “combining speaking strategies with emotional and cognitive support to reduce negative reactions.”

The older methods utilized in “fixing” a stutter were based largely in enforcing the idea that stuttering would go away if given enough effort—which only places more stress on an individual who lives in constant anxiety. And anxiety is hardly an effective mindset for being able to relax sufficiently to feel composed enough to be fluent.

Additionally, in 2010 Dr. Dennis Dreyna of the Stuttering Institute announced the discovery of three stuttering-related genes. However, despite the beginnings of biological understanding regarding stuttering, it could still be years before precision-based medicine and CT scans can play a significant and attainable part in speech therapy.

Effective Treatments

At present, the best treatments still appear to be personalized speech therapy, utilizing behavioral techniques. Modifying phonation intervals (MPI) consists of a pre-treatment phase to identify an individual’s speech performance; an establishment phase using customized biofeedback software in a clinic; a transfer phase involving learning to recreate the in-clinic tricks outside the clinic; and a maintenance phase in which the individual slowly works less in-clinic. 

The Stutter-Free Speech Program is another treatment method considered to be highly effective. The therapist helps the client find a rate of speech slow enough to keep from stuttering, which is slowly increased and transferred out of clinic. Early intervention programs are often the most effective, as the brain is more susceptible to learning new ways of speaking while still young and plastic, but this shouldn’t scare off any adults still looking for new ways to work through stuttering.

Many stuttering programs are available, both as intensive programs and through speech-therapist clinics that may take longer, but can eventually be individualized more fully. The Australian Stuttering Research Center offers both child and adult programs in which the client learns to modify their own speech, which may ultimately be more effective than having speech modified by a clinician.