Is fluency enough? Everyone who stutters has the goal of being more fluent one day, but they don’t want to stop at that. They dream of freedom from stuttering.
Is it tough? Yes! Is it an impossible dream? Apparently, not.
It takes a lot of work to be fluent and it takes even more work to achieve freedom from stuttering. However, it is an attainable dream that begins with a lot of work on oneself.
If you too have the dream of becoming free from stuttering, you should begin with these 4 simple steps –
- Identification – The first step is the identification of the specific nature of your stuttering
- Development – Next, you should work on developing an effective therapy program
- Implementation –The third step should be implementing the therapy program
- Maintenance – The final step should be maintaining the new stuttering modification and speech production methods till they become habitual
Identifying Your Stuttering
Everyone who stutters may not have the same type of stuttering. Stuttering severity along with type may vary significantly between two individuals. So, simply knowing that you stutter may not be enough.
Begin self-diagnosis with what you do when you stutter.
For example – when you try to say a word and stutter, examine the feelings, articulator movements, and actions that occur.
You may notice that you hold your breath before making a /h/ sound at the beginning of a word.
Or, your tongue "gets stuck" behind your teeth when you are trying to make a /d/ sound.
You should also make a note of what you do when you anticipate a block. Sometimes, you may avoid the word entirely and substitute it.
Or, you may articulate the feared word with more effort to overcome the block.
You may want to divide these observations into three categories –
1. Speech-flow blocks
Blocks are interruptions to the regular flow of speech. These are silent phases during which a person who stutters tries to speak. You may have felt your throat close up, chest tighten, jaws clench, or tongue getting stuck when no sound comes out. That may have been a speech block. We have more details on blocks and how to overcome them right here.
2. Coping methods
Many adults who have been stuttering since childhood learn block coping mechanisms in speech therapy or from trusted sources like Stamurai. However, many opt for patterns that may make blocks worse. Some block-coping methods may even worsen stuttering including pushing oneself to complete a word, adding a head nod or hand movement to release a block, or avoid a particular word and replacing it with another.
3. Stuttering not associated with a block
Some stuttering behaviors aren't associated with blocks. For example, when someone who stutters tries to rush through a sentence in a high-strung situation they might end up repeating a few syllables or part-words in the sentence. However, it isn't the same as blocking, since the speaker can vocalize during their stutter. The same is true for prolongations.
Development of a Therapy Program
Not everyone stutters in the same way. Therefore, not every therapy program is equally effective for everyone who stutters.
Your speech therapist can help or you can use a trusted app like Stamurai to determine your stuttering severity. Either way, the goal is to get more acquainted with your blocks.
Stuttering blocks seem unpredictable. They appear when you are least expecting them; this makes it extremely difficult for someone who stutters to manage and reduce their stuttering blocks.
Currently, there are several techniques speech pathologists recommend to effectively overcome speech blocks. Here are some of the techniques that may work for you –
Cancellation is a post-block correction technique that you need to use immediately after you experience a block.
Immediately after you experience a block, try to understand what you did wrong and what you can do to rectify it in the future.
During cancellation, you begin to make your way through a feared word, and as you approach the block, pay attention to the movement of your lips, tongue, throat muscles, and jaws.
Pause a little and give yourself the time to think about what may be contributing to your block. Next, release the pressure and try saying the word differently.
It is an in-block correction technique that can give you a fresh insight into the relationship breathing and muscle coordination share.
Post-block corrections aim to teach you how to cancel the block once it has begun.
The in-block corrections demand that you don’t stop when you are in the middle of a block. Next, slow it down and let the block run its course. Try to prolong the word you are blocking on and stretch the sound. The pull-out technique is incredibly useful for people with a high stuttering severity who experience a high frequency of blocks.
Preparatory set technique
It is a pre-block correction that will enable you to move through a block without breaking flow.
As you approach your feared word, pause. Take a deep breath (look at coastal breathing for a clear idea) and feel your articulators relax.
Recollect the fluency shaping techniques you have learned so far and apply one that can help you ease through the word without breaking the flow of the conversation.
Imagine how it would feel to say the word with deliberation. Now, try to say the word out loud in the same manner while applying your newly learned block correction techniques and fluency shaping techniques.
Implementing the Therapy Program
Devising a therapy program or receiving a personalized stuttering treatment from a speech therapist isn't enough. You need to follow through with daily practices, exercises, receive feedback and track your improvement.
Stuttering therapy is a lot of hard work! Sadly, it isn’t the magical cure most of us hope for.
Stuttering therapy for freedom from stuttering requires significant amount of unlearning. Over the years, we have learned secondary responses to our stuttering, including avoidance and escape behaviors. These pose obstacles in the path of acquiring fluency.
You will need patience, tenacity, and dedication to see the first signs of fluency. Sometimes, it takes days, but at other times, it may take weeks or even months. Therefore, it is important to set tangible, daily goals.
If you are experiencing a lack of progress for days at a stretch, then you may need to revise your stuttering therapy plan.
Maintaining and Persisting
Normal speech requires thousands of muscles and nerves working in sync to produce smooth speech. It may seem effortless, but that isn’t always the case for people who are learning to overcome their stuttering.
For people who stutter, producing fluent speech requires a learning curve.
This learning curve demands that you master the speech therapy techniques and apply them whenever you speak with little effort. They must become a habit.
And that takes a lot of work! Self-therapy for stuttering is entirely possible for adults who stutter.
You just have to remember that fluency doesn't come in one day.
You will have to spend several hours mastering the techniques and subsequently applying them every time you feel a repetition, prolongation or block come up.
On Your Way to Freedom
Recent research shows that people who stutter benefit from flexible stuttering treatments that cater to their specific needs.
A majority of the adults who stutter expect greater fluency and better control over their speech rather than complete freedom from stuttering.
100% freedom from stuttering isn't a far-fetched dream if you are ready to put in some elbow grease.
It will take considerable time and you will have to apply the fluency shaping techniques every time you speak.
However, it is indeed possible as long as you are ready to identify your stuttering, make a therapy plan, and implement the therapy and follow-through.