Everyone experiences periods in which speech is not fluent. For some, a stutter can get in the way of everyday life.
A person who stutters may only struggle with certain words or sounds. They may experience:
- blocks, in which there is a long pause before being able to say a word
- prolongations, in which certain sounds in a word are extended
- repetition of a word or part of a word
Stuttering can also have physical signs, such as movements in the face and body as a person attempts to pronounce a word.
According to the Stuttering Foundation, over 70 million people worldwide are affected. Of these, 3 million live in the United States. Males are four times more likely to stutter than females, and about 5 percent of children will go through a period of stuttering.
For people who regularly experience stuttering, and for those who experience it due to stress, several methods can help to reduce the frequency or eliminate it altogether.
Quick tips to stop stuttering
The following techniques can help a person to avoid or reduce stuttering in everyday situations, or, for example, when giving a presentation.
Focus on breathing
Before a social interaction or a period of prolonged speech, make a conscious effort to relax and breathe. Results of a study published in 2012 suggest that deep, mindful breathing helps to reduce blood pressure and increase the flow of oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. Deep breathing also reduces anxiety, which can have a powerful effect on stuttering.
For many, lots of time and effort are needed to reduce or eliminate a stutter. Over time, speech therapy and practice at home can result in drastic improvements.
A speech therapist can help children and adults to manage stuttering. For some, speech therapy may be required at different times throughout life.
Initially, a therapist tests a person’s speech and assesses the severity of a stutter. Every person who stutters has a unique experience, and a therapist will ask about the impact that stuttering has on a person’s life. They will then tailor their sessions to suit the individual.
A speech therapist can also teach coping strategies to reduce anxiety around stuttering.
Practicing and rehearsing speech, especially trigger words or phrases, can help to improve a stutter. Practice should focus on:
- speaking slowly
- using compensatory strategies
- completing thoughts
- reducing tension
- taking deep breaths while speaking
It can help to practice in front of a mirror or with members of a support network.
Develop a strong support network
Often, the reactions of others can have a big impact on how a person who stutters sees themselves. It is important to be surrounded by positive, supportive people so that a person can speak without the fear of judgment.
Some people who stutter benefit from a device called a speech monitor that is attached to the outer ear. This alters sound frequencies and uses delayed feedback to help a person regulate their speech.
While insurance sometimes covers the cost, these devices can be expensive. A doctor may be able to recommend more affordable options.
Many people find speech monitors helpful, but there is no guarantee that they provide permanent benefits.
By practicing techniques and working on long-term strategies, many people can overcome stuttering.
Some children go through a phase of stuttering as part of their natural development. For others, stuttering never entirely goes away, though it may change as a person ages. For example, a person may only stutter when under pressure, such as during a presentation.
With patience and practice, most people can reduce the frequency of stuttering.
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