International Stuttering Awareness Day, held on Thursday 22 October, aims to raise public awareness of issues faced by the world’s population who stutter or stammer.
Mater Speech Pathologist Amanda Lyons explains the prevalence of stuttering varies with age as around one per cent of adult’s stutter, and it can be an invisible and socially debilitating disability for those impacted.
“Stuttering or stammering, as it is known in the United Kingdom, is defined as the interruption of the forward flow of speech. It can be heard as repetitions of sounds or words, prolongations of sounds and blocks in speech, this increases the time it takes a person who stutters to complete what they are saying”, Amanda said.
“Around 8 per cent of children will stutter between the ages of 2 and 8 with 80 per cent resolving. Assessment by a Speech Pathologist is always recommended as we have evidence-based treatments available for this age group. However, if a child continues to stutter past the age of 10 it is likely they will continue to stutter for the rest of their lives.
“I work with individuals over the age of 18 who stutter, helping them to set their own personal communication goals and teaching them to use fluency techniques and other strategies to reach these goals. In clinic we teach our patients not to be defined by their stutter, it is simply one of their personal characteristics.”
Amanda explains it is a high impact, low incidence disorder and stuttering can impact many components of an individual’s life, it is not unusual for people to choose careers based on the fact they would not have to speak in that role.
“The stigma around stuttering can be problematic, it can impact a person’s ability to access education, employment and also inhibits their level of social interaction in society,” Amanda said.
“People who stutter say they often feel perceived as less intelligent by the wider community due to their communication difficulties; however, stuttering is not linked to intelligence.
“Current research demonstrates both genetic and neurological factors contribute to the development of stuttering in individuals. An adult can also develop a stutter later in life due to a traumatic head injury or severe emotional event.”
While there is no cure, Speech Pathologists work alongside patients helping them be the best communicators they can be.
“One of the best quotes I ever heard was from author Katherine Preston who said, ‘It all became easier when I stopped treating stuttering as the enemy’,” Amanda said.
Vikesh Anand is the National President of the Australian Speak Easy Association Australia’s peak body for supporting people who stutter and works closely with Amanda, he said people with a stutter can feel misunderstood and out of place in society.
“When interacting with a person who has a stutter it’s important you don’t treat them any differently. Maintain eye contact, let them finish their sentence and understand it may take them a little longer to finish what they are saying,” Vikesh said.
“It can be an incredibly isolating life. I was 28 years old when I first met another person who had a stutter and my whole world shifted when I finally understood it wasn’t just me and this was normal.
“To combat social isolation the Speak Easy Association runs virtual meet ups online which are welcoming places for people who have a stutter to find support with others like them.”
Vikesh and the Australian Speak Easy Association will be holding a free online conference on 24 – 25 October where there will be the opportunity to hear both Australian and global perspectives on stuttering.
Additional Information and Resources
Mater offers Speech Pathology Services to both public and private patients. To find out more please call 07 3163 8685 for public and 07 3163 6000 for private Monday to Friday, 7.30 am to 4 pm.
The Lidcombe Program offers an early intervention program for children who stutter and the University of Technology Sydney runs a program called iGlebe which is a free online social anxiety treatment tool for adults who stutter created through the Australian Stuttering Research Centre.
Further resources on stuttering (link to PDF) can be found at Speech Pathology Australia which is the national peak body for the speech pathology profession in Australia.