Stop body movements when stuttering

Malcolm Fraser states in his book "Self Therapy for the Stutterer" that one of the steps is to "identify and eliminate any unusual gestures, facial contortions, or body movements..." Fred Murray agrees as he says "Stutterers will fare better if they ignore the temptations that those devices present and work at finding a way to deal with the stuttering behavior itself." He tells a story about a man who tried foot patting, eye blinking, and arm waving to help him past a block, and it turned him into "a foot-patting, eye-blinking, arm-waving stutterer."

Attitude

Murray tells a story of when he was in the army and his stuttering improved. He says, "the most important factor in that improvement was the switch in my own attitude, from a defensive one to an aggressive one." Wedberg wrote that the voice of a stutterer says "I don't believe in myself." Murray had to become mad at himself to prove that he could do a lecture without an assistant.

Pressure and fear

Murray states that stuttering occurs "in response to real pressure and to the real cues about which ther stutterer has developed neurotic fear." Some things that cause stress and fear include the telephone, introducing oneself or others, and answering questions. One method of treating stutterers is to have them do the things they fear over and over until it becomes easier to do. Making phone calls to place an order or answering the phone, going to stores and introducing oneself and asking a question, and setting up other situations where you are forced to do things that are hard for you will eventually make it easier.

Psychotherapy for stuttering

In The Treatment of Stuttering, Dr. Van Riper states that one of the aims of psychotherapy is "to increase the person's ability to tolerate stress." Another is "to develop self-esteem and social adequacy." Fred Murray says that "a positive spirit of self-acceptance grew steadily, and, as this happened, my defensive worries about what other people thought of me dimished." Van Riper's third aim of psychotherapy is "to relieve distressing anxiety and its related symptoms." For some people, the related symptom is stuttering. This does not apply to everyone who stutters, but it means that for many, psychotherapy may help.

The Dread of an Assignment

Fred Murray tells how a stutterer feels when he is given a speaking assignment.

"When a stutterer knows that on a certain day in the future he is going to have to speak under pressure, there is a feeling similar to one we all have experienced when the first clouds of a bad thunderstorm appear on the horizon. The first anxiousness, when the scene is still calm, is mild but unmistakable. There is something ahead that is negative. As the clouds grow larger and darker, the anxiety increases, and, as the moment of the first huge boom and lightning flash comes near, there is a strong, panicky surge of claustrophobia, the inevitability of a crisis, the impossibility of escape.....I couldn't eat. I barely slept. And, my terror grew....The anxiety was overwhelming.....Waves of apprehension began passing over me..."

Fred made it through that speaking assignment and in later years said, "In stuttering therapy, we learn to hold down our expectations for our speech behavior, not to build a tower of pride so high that it will be especially vulnerable to the shakings that are inevitable in every stutterer's experience."

The fear of speaking to an audience is listed in the Book of Lists as the greatest fear possessed by an average person.

Analysis or free association for stuttering

Fred Murray tells of going to an analyst in hopes that it would help his stuttering. He states in his book A Stutterer's Story that he spoke fluently during most of the sessions. He says, "my fluency came, I believe, from my faith in the doctor, and from the nonjudgemental nature of the situation I was in. Within that room I felt no threats. I was really alone with myself." He also states "a large part of my later improvement came when my anger about being a stutterer began to diminish."

Stuttering is worse when you fear stuttering and try to hide it. Stuttering is worse when you feel threatened by the people around you or the situation you are in. Stuttering is worse when you have built up anger at the stuttering, yourself, and the world because of everyone's reaction to your stuttering. It is a long process to eliminate the things that make stuttering worse.

Let the stutterer speak

"Most stutterers do resent having words said for them, and usually they should not be helped. The best course for the listener to take is to show by courteous attention that he understands the stutterer is in trouble, that the stuttering is not interfering with their relationship, and that he, the listener, is willing to wait patiently until the stutterer is able to speak for himself. Stutterers feel defeated whtn their listeners talk for them." - Murray

Time pressure makes stuttering worse

Dr. Frederick Murray gives several examples of times when a stutterer is worse because of time pressure. When a person who stutters has to introduce themselves or someone else, they have to say a particular thing at a particular time. This puts stress on them, and they find that their speech muscles tighten and they are unable to speak easily. When they are in control of a situation and talking about something they have prepared, they do better.

If the person who stutters announces right up front that they stutter and for the audience not to be disturbed if they should start to stutter and that they would handle it as best they can, there will most likely be less stuttering.

Introductions are hard for those who stutter

People who stutter have one of the hardest times when it comes to making introductions. It doesn't matter if the introduction comes up quickly or if they have advance knowledge that they are going to have to introduce two people. They can panic and the speech mechanism freezes and the words won't come. Dr. Van Riper wrote that the heartbeat could reach 120 beats a minute within seconds.

An introduction means that the stutterer cannot substitute words. He has to remember and be able to say certain words (names) at a certain time. Fred Murray states that he says the names in his mind ahead of time and focuses on keeping his speech muscles relaxed so if he does stutter, it will be a light fluent stuttering instead of a block.

Shame

Most people who stutter feel that their speech is something to be ashamed of, which makes them stutter more. Deep seated feelings of shame every time you speak are not easy to get rid of, but a stutterer needs to make a change of attitude in order for his speech to improve. The fear of stuttering has to turn into being able to speak even if you stutter. The stuttering episodes will improve, and blocks will be less frequent in the person who lets the stuttering happen. A speech therapist can help the stutterer identify what he is doing when he stutters and help him learn what he needs to do to stutter less.

Slide and Bounce

Two methods used to help stutterers get through a tough word are the slide or the bounce.

The slide is prolonging the intial sound of most troublesome words until you are able to move on the the next sound.

The bounce is voluntarily repeating the initial syllable of words so the general struggle behaviors so evident during stuttering are reduced. This method can help a stutterer gain control of a block that he feels coming on. Stutterers are told to vary the number of repetitions of a syllable so that they do not create a habit of the pattern.

"With both the prolongation and the bounce [a stutterer] can begin to feel.....that he is gaining mastery over something that has been completely dominating him, that at last he has a chance to direct the shape of his own speech." Fred Murray

Accept yourself as a stutterer

"I have learned that there are many ways to look at stuttering, and there are many degrees of improvement. Because someone stutters noticeably does not mean that he may not have made as much progress as others who do not seem to stutter as much."

"Almost everything we did [in therapy] was designed to make us relinquish our avoidance maneuvers and accept ourselves as stutterers. If we could accomplish this, we would be liberated from a tension that had gripped us for most of our lives - the strain of trying constantly to hide or suppress our stuttering."

Things that were done in therapy:

Making yourself talk more, especially in feared situations.
Maintain eye contact when speaking and remembering the color of eyes of the people you talk to.
Ask strangers for directions.
Apply for jobs in several stores.
Read aloud to someone several times daily.


From a Stutterer's Story by Fred Murray

Stutter more fluently

The best approach to stuttering seems to be learning how to stutter more fluently rather than trying to eliminate stuttering altogether. Instead of using systems for suppressing stuttering, a stutterer should reduce avoidance maneuvers and accept themselves as a stutterer. Speech therapists can teach a stutterer many techniques for making words easier. This should be a stutterer's goal rather than substituting an easier word to say.

Fluency doesn't always transfer to the real world

Many stutterers find that they can become quite fluent while in therapy, but they have a hard time making it work in other situations in life. They become comfortable with the therapist and the techniques while in therapy, but forget to use their techniques outside of the therapy room. One type of therapy that helps some stutterers is to do role modeling. As long as they are pretending to be someone else, they can speak without stuttering. Perhaps, people who stutter could utilize that approach in various situations, such as when having to give a speech, and become an actor/actress in their minds and get through it without stuttering. All stutterers have their own techniques to get through each day.

Parents can help a child who stutters

1. Parents should reduce the rate of their speech. A child will model the slower speech rate. Avoid telling the child "to slow down;" this suggests child is doing something wrong.

2. Reduce questions. Make comments that the child can choose to respond to.

3. Avoid questions or commments that require a child to remember, for example: "Tell us what you saw at the zoo. " Instead, say in child's presence, "We went to the zoo today and saw elephants and tigers." Your child can then comment if he chooses to.

4. Make sure that you are listening and looking at the child when he is talking. Give undivided attention as much as possible.

5. Use shorter sentences and be less focused on teaching vocabulary. Your child will model speech after you, so instead of correcting the child, just let him hear you use good speaking skills.

For help with children who stutter, click on "If You Think Your Child Is Stuttering" on the left column in the list of links.

Treating Stuttering

Dr. Charles Van Riper in his book Speech Correction: Principles and Methods, states that stuttering is so embedded in a confirmed stutterer that it is impossible to prevent it completely. A person who stutters doesn't have to try to stop stuttering completely. "It is possible for a person to learn to do it fluently that he can seem to speak well." Pages 72 through 75 of A Stutterer's Story by Fred Murray tell how Fred took some of Dr. Riper's advice and applied it to his stuttering and found that he could introduce himself to a group of people and have it come out fluently enough even though he was full of panic as usual.

Prove them wrong

If you stutter, and someone tells you that you can't take a certain job because of your stuttering, prove them wrong! You can learn the techniques to better fluency and do whatever career you wish. You may still stutter, but if you believe in yourself and what you are doing, others will accept you as you are and believe in you, too. Many stutterers have gone on to have successful careers in various jobs. If they can do it, you can, too! Some have even become famous with what they have done. Marilyn Monroe was a stutterer and everyone knows that name. Click on "Famous People Who Stutter" on the left and find more.

Those important words

It is often the most important words that will cause a person to stutter. "The greater the importance of a word, the more likely it is that stuttering will occur on that word." - Murray

The stutterer has a phobic reaction to words that he has stuttered on previously. The responses to certain words are "deeply conditioned reactions" that are harder to get over the longer you have had them. That is why it is easier for young children to get over stuttering if they get speech therapy from a specialist. It is harder for teens and adults who have been stuttering all their life to learn fluent speech without anticipating problem words and blocking or stuttering on them.

One of the therapists that Murray went to told him that he needed to learn to relax his entire body voluntarily so his entire body was in his control. While in that state of complete quiet, he was to feel the air flow and the words come effortlessly. Practicing relaxation techniques every day was to aid in more fluent speech.

Speech therapists can teach relaxation techniques that include learning how to relax the muscles that are used in speech. Tension only makes the stutterer stutter more.

Self Therapy for the Stutterer

Some people who stutter have been heard to comment that they don't like going to speech therapy because the therapist has never stuttered and doesn't really know what it is like to be a stutterer. The book "Self Therapy for the Stutterer" was written by a stutterer and has quotes from about 40 authorities in the field of speech pathology who stutter. For anyone who wants to take the time to really work on improving their speech, this is the book to get.

Although the text of the book can be found online in an early edition, it really is worth finding a recent edition that includes the quotes at the bottom of each page.

Stop worrying about your stuttering

Fred Murray states that the best advice he ever got was this "(A)Stop worrying about yourself and your stuttering. You are focusing too much on that. (B) Find some kind of endeavor that you can throw yourself into, that is beyond you, that is creative, and in which you are doing something to help other people, and, above all (C) Hang onto your sense of humor."

Those who worry about their stuttering usually make it worse by concentrating on it so much. Those who go ahead and stutter their way through what they want to say and concentrate on what they are saying find that they stutter less than if they tried not to stutter.

If you are one who just doesn't talk because of your stuttering, you are missing times that you can practice speaking. The more all of us practice speaking in various situations, the better we become at speaking. Even fluent speakers have trouble at certain times and find that practice makes it easier to speak in groups, make speeches, etc.

Develop your interests

People who stutter are so prone to devote all of their time learning how not to stutter that they never find out who they really are (other than a stutterer) and what they are interested in (other than wanting to talk without stuttering). Having varied interests, hobbies, and activities helps you develop more contacts as well as making friends with the things you enjoy doing. All of us need to find interests that make us happy whether it is something that we do alone like stamp collecting, or something we do with one other person like tennis or ping pong, or something we do with a group like baseball. Having varied interests brings us in contact with different people and gives us a chance to become comfortable being around different types of people. This will enhance our speaking abilities if we let it. "A stutterer must always guard against withdrawing from society because of embarrassment over his affliction."

Moods

A stutterer's life becomes colored by his stuttering and he blames everything that goes wrong on his stuttering. His moods become bound to the state of his speech. A stutterer needs to realize that everyone has varying moods daily so he realizes good and bad speaking instances don't cause the fluctuating moods.

Physical reactions to stuttering

People who stutter or know someone who stutters are very aware of the various physical reactions that occur in many stutterers as they try to make the words come out. These include jutting of the chin, stamping a foot, slapping the thigh, and facial grimaces. A description that Murray gives of his tremors is particular interesting. He states that a stutterer who experiences the extremely fast vibrations of the muscles near the mouth area can sometimes be interrupted by making a sudden movement of the head or chin. "Occasionally the tremor will spread to other parts of the head or body....Tremors make me think of a car that is running roughly after its ignition has been switched off. The driver can do nothing to stop it. He must sit there and endure the unpleasant shivers and jolting until the mechanism quiets down of its own accord." That sure is a good explanation that non-stutterers can relate to as to.

Teachers attitudes are important

Teachers should all be taught how to react to a student who stutters. I am sure every PWS could tell a story about a well-meaning teacher who caused them to stutter more. Teachers should be informed of how they can help by teaching the other children how to react, also. Teachers can help a stuttering student by teaching the class respect and keep children from teasing others about anything, including stuttering. The attitudes of classmates and teachers towards a stutterer and his stuttering will have much to do with how well the stutterer performs in school.

Murray states "If the teacher realizes that when the student stutters he is speaking as well as he can, that he is stuttering because the demands that are being made on his mechanism are exceeding his ability to cope with them, it becomes clear that the best way to help him is to lighten those demands."

Teachers who interrupt a stuttering student to tell them to "slow down," "take a deep breath," "to wait and to think what he wants to say and then to try again," or "to substitute words that are easier" all increase the tension he feels.

Teachers should listen patiently, not hurry the student, and not interrupt to tell them to slow down, take a deep breath, etc. The Stuttering Foundation of America has a brochure for teachers that can be found on this page: http://www.stutteringhelp.org/DeskLeftDefault.aspx?TabID=152 .

Stutterers often do well in plays

People who stutter often do well speaking in groups in unison, singing, or speaking in a play. They are taking on a role that is different than their everyday one. Stutterers function best when they are in control, able to say what they want when they want, free from pressures of being interrupted or of having to answer questions. One thing that can be done to transfer this knowledge over to real life is for the stutterer to write down what he has to say and practice it just like he were going to be in a play. Trying this while ordering a pizza over the phone may help many stutterers who have trouble on the phone.

Accept yourself and face your fears

Stuttering is a disability or problem that is very visable and therefore, very frustrating. Many stutterers are so preoccupied with their trouble speaking that they lose sight of their good qualities. Concentrating on any negative thing can make it seem momentous in proportion to what it really is. Taking steps to work on becoming more fluent with the help of a professional is one step for the PWS, but along with speech therapy there is a need to accept oneself and to face your fears.

Useless Advice to the Stutterer

Fred Murray tells of having to take a public speaking course in school and having the teacher tell him "the same old useless advice I had heard all my life: "Slow down, Fred!" "Take your time!" "Take a big breath, Fred!" "Think what you're going to say before you say it!" Everyone who stutters has heard all of these and more. These things do NOT help the person who is stuttering. Fred says that his "stuttering increased markedly" while he was in that class. As his stuttering increased, it affecting his socially and psychologically. His description of a time that he had to give a speech, the mounting anxiety, and the bad experience during and afterwards can be found in his book "A Stutterer's Story." Anyone who stutters or knows someone who stutters should read this book. The stutterer will be able to relate and the friends or family members of stutterers will learn what it is like to stutter and what they go through.

Starting school makes stuttering worse

Children often don't think much about their speech difficulties until they start school. Many people who stutter will tell you that their awareness and dread of their stuttering started in elementary school. By the time they were in middle school, they spent much of their time thinking about how they could avoid talking in order to avoid stuttering. Young children will often also develop negative attitudes toward most areas of their life that involve speaking. This is why it is of utmost importance for parents to get help for their children while they are young.

Telephone conversations for the person who stutters

"It is hard for normal speakers to understand the telephone agonies that many stutterers go through. At the heart of the problem is the same communication pressure which exists in reading aloud in school, that of having to say specific words at specific times. The word "hello" is not particularly hard to say, but it is hard for the stutterer to say when he answers a phone, because he knows he must get it out immediately or the person on the other end of the line will hang up......Specific word pressure and time pressure are also present in most telephone conversations." Frederick Murray

The Stuttering Foundation gives tips for those who stutter and have trouble with telephone conversations on this page of their web site: http://www.stutteringhelp.org/DeskLeftDefault.aspx?TabID=154.

"Do not let that modern-day piece of plastic dominate your life. It is far better to use the phone and stutter than to avoid using the phone." The Stuttering Foundation

Relaxation

Relaxation technigues have been used to help a stutterer find a calm, relaxed feeling that helps produce more fluid speech. A Stutterer's Story describes in detail one relaxation technique used to release tension. "Once physical and emotional calm is established, speech will flow freely." Stutterers often find that they have a newfound speech while they are in therapy; next they have to learn to transfer that so it works in situations at home, school, or work.

Modeling good speech

All of us have speech disfluencies at some time in our lives. Some just have them more often and are more noticeable. Since children imitate their parents' and other peoples' speaking patterns, we all need to be good speech models. Our speech should not be hurried. Our sentence structure and vocabulary should be simple if we are speaking to a child who stutters. We should use slow, easy speech as this will make a difference in the speech rate of the person we are talking with. This is the best thing we can do to help anyone who stutters.

One time when I was on the phone with a caller, he commented "Hey, I usually stutter when I am on the phone, but I'm not stuttering when I talk with you. Wonder how come." I bet it is because of my unhurried manner and slow speaking style.

Stuttering is not voluntary

Stuttering is not a voluntary behavior. Some things that help lessen the occurance of stuttering include:
Having parents or friends who do not express anxiety or other emotions about times of stuttering.
Not being hurried to speak.
Not having sentences finished by someone else.
Not being told to "take a breath."
Not being told to "start over again."
Being asked fewer demanding questions.
Not having to talk at great length when tired or tense.
Having conversations with people who practice good speech manners, which includes not interrupting others and allowing everyone a turn to speak.

Relationship between physical condition and stuttering

A relationship may be found between physical condition and stuttering. Fred Murray states in his book, "I am sure that my own poor health as a child ontributed to the maintenance and perpetuation of my stuttering." Murray also states that boys are neurologically less stable than girls and that this may explain why there are more male stutterers than female.

Less Stress

Less stress can sometimes effect stuttering, especially in young children who have just started stuttering. Any source of pressure that can be eliminated should make a difference. Sometimes, small things can make life unpleasant for the small child. Parents often don't realize the stress that is added to a household and the effect it has on some members. Adults who stutter may find that the more they say "no" to volunteer activities and the calmer their calender is, the less they stutter because of the lessened stress. Keeping the demands small makes life more relaxed and enjoyable.

Reactions of parents to children who stutter

Parents need to be informed about stuttering in order to help their child. In A Stutterer's Story, Murray states it best.

"Parents who would never think of hiding a stuttering child may find that they are overprotecting him in ways that sometimes resemble hiding. They may discourage him from answering the telephone or the door......A small stutterer is more concerned about what his family thinks of him than he is about a stranger at the front door.....It is possible that his parents' interfering with his doing something as normal as answering the phone or the door may raise or reinforce suspicions in his own mind about his abilites and the seriousness of his speech difficulties......A stuttering child....should be treated as normally as possible. Confidence fails and fears begin when a child starts to consider himself strange. His family must accept his stuttering as one characteristic of this child whom they love."

That last sentence is important with every young child, not just those who stutter. We learn to accept ourselves and others like us if we are first accepted by our families.

Relaxation and stuttering

People who stutter often find that they stutter less when they are relaxed. Some have even said that they stutter less when they are out drinking with their friends. The problem with that way of relaxing is that you can't drink constantly just so you won't stutter! Practicing relaxation exercises daily, learning to stay calm in stressful situations, and keeping your life as stress-free as possible could lessen stuttering. Even keeping company with people who are calm instead of those type A personalities could help. If you can notice where you tense up when you are stuttering and learn to relax the specific place where the tension is, that would be a big help. A speech therapist can help you learn to identify those muscles you use during speech and how to relax them with certain exercises.

Parents of Child Who Stutters

Murray states in A Stutterers Story (published by The Stuttering Foundation of America), "Parents sometimes respond to the development of a child's stuttering by wondering what they have done to him to make it happen. This question is probably unjutified; furthermore, when it does arise, it can influence parental behavior that will work against the child's improvement. Self-blame produces tension, and often anger. In a home these feelings add to a youngster's troubles, complicating his own emotions and increasing his stuttering. Any mistakes the parents made in the past probably were unintentional ones. Parents should realize that nothing can be done about past mistakes, ignore the temptation to punish themselves, and direct their energies toward learning all they can about the problem and instituting any changes in the home that will benefit their child."

Things that parents can do at home to help a child who stutters can be found at www.stutteringhelp.org.

Three and Four Year Olds

"Normal speech imperfections are usually most in evidence when children are three or four. At this time they may do a good deal of word repeating, and occasionally they may prolong word sounds. ....if incividuals close to the child do not see surprised or alarmed about the unusual number of repetitions or prolongations, the amount of imperfections....in his speech will probably drop to a familiar level." A Stutterer's Story published by The Stuttering Foundation

Even with the amount of information available to parents, there are still those who do as one young man said "my father slaps me every time I stutter" and the result is probably the same as that young man continued "so I stopped talking."

Parents with concerns about a child's speech should go to www.stutteringhelp.org and learn how they can best help their child.

Childhood stuttering

"We know that relatively small changes in family attitude or lessening of environmental strain can sometimes be enough to make a small child's stuttering disappear completely. The first thing that parents can do to help, then, is to examine their child's routine experiences carefully, trying to see them through his eyes, looking for sources of pressure or strain. Anything that makes life unpleasant for him and that is not essential should be eliminated. This process is sometimes called indirect therapy. It might also be called giving nature a chance." Frederick Murray, Ph.D in "A Stutterer's Story" published by The Stuttering Foundation of America.