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Stuttering affects approximately 1 in 20 children and their stuttering may last for a few months, years or even into adulthood. It affects more boys than girls, can run in families and impacts a disproportionate number of individuals with Autism than those without the diagnosis. A favorite method for controlling stuttering involves using special rules for talking. And these rules aren’t just for the person who stutters. It is just as important for family members (and other supporting individuals) of people who stutter to learn and use the rules too.

In our busy calendar-full, smart-phone dinging, work-week grinding lives, I’ve noticed that it can be understandingly difficult to put these rules into action, so this week, take a break with me because speech is in the park; more specifically, White Rock Lake Park.

Why the park? Of course, you can follow these rules anytime and anywhere but the park supplies a uniquely excellent backdrop for the whole family to practice their fluency rules. It’s okay to just be quiet in the park, ignore your phone, and listen carefully to the leaves rustling or the waterfowl quacking and honking. On a visit to White Rock Lake, you’ll hear a jogging dog panting, rower’s paddles slicing into the water, your ankles swooshing through wildflowers and the water lapping the lakeshore; where tension can’t help but to melt.

And this is crucial, since the bottom line with the following stuttering therapy techniques is to control and reduce tension. It’s not that people who stutter are more tense than others. They just stutter because they do; but tension can make talking smoothly more difficult. By controlling tension, we can reduce the severity and the frequency of stuttering events in those who are predisposed to stuttering.

So, here’s my take on some of my favorite rules that you can try next time you visit the park; courtesy of Runyan and Runyan (2 influential researchers in speech fluency intervention) and The Stuttering Foundation:

1.) Speak slowly.
When you speak in an easy unrushed way, you’ll subconsciously trigger your communication partner to speak slower; this reduces the mental work of speaking.

2.) Use speech breathing.
A good walk through the park won’t let you breathe shallowly (which carries tension in the neck, jaw and shoulders), you’ll breathe deeply and rhythmically.

3.) Give your undivided attention.
Reduce your communication partner’s cognitive load (mental work). Let them focus on what they are trying to say instead of dividing their attention between their thoughts and how to keep your attention.

4.) Add “Tell me…” and “I wonder…” to your repertoire.
Replace what can feel like too many questions requiring an immediate response with open-ended statements that continue a conversation forward at your partner’s own pace.

5.) Take slightly longer pauses between phrases.
Give your communication partner room to interrupt without having to gather a running start’s amount of tension as they try to get a word in.

6.) Give reassuring eye contact.
Don’t look away if your communication partner stutters; make eye contact and give nonverbals (smiles, nods) that say I’m listening to what you said, not how you said it.

7.) Forget speech.
Have fun playing, running, or watching the sunset. Build memories that give you a chance to praise your loved one for things that aren’t talking.

These are just a few of the Fluency Enhancing Skills you can learn to do well under the guidance of a certified speech-language pathologist to produce more fluent speech. And an even more comprehensive program can include much more: identification, education/facts, Fluency Shaping Skills and addressing attitudes about speech. Always seek the help of a professional for appropriate individualized treatment to get best results.

To learn more about all the fun to be had at White Rock Lake Park, visit: http://www.whiterockdallas.org/

To learn more about stuttering please visit:

Runyan, C. M., & Runyan, S. E. (2010). The fluency rules program. In Guitar, B. & McCauley, R.J. (Eds.) Treatment of stuttering: Established and emerging interventions (pp. 167-187). Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Scaler Scott, K. “Fluency Disorders in the ASD Population.” Speechpathology.com. 02 Jun. 2014. Web. Mar. 2017

About K. Joi Uzoh, M.A., CCC-SLP

Joi is an ASHA licensed Speech-Language Pathologist and the Owner and Director of Speech and Language Services at ClearWay Speech and Language Center, a family-centered speech and language therapy private practice located in East Dallas. She has been helping families improve the communication skills of their loved ones since 2007 and especially enjoys working on language disorders, complex sound disorders, and stuttering in persons of all ages. Through individualized service and caregiver education, she helps families realize their communication goals.

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