Speech-Language Pathology/Stuttering/Improving Self-Awareness

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Self-awareness of stuttering behaviors is the foundation of stuttering therapy. Have a friend or your speech-language pathologist videotape you speaking. Watch the video. For some stutterers, watching that video will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. Some stutterers are unaware of their stuttering, or the severity of their stuttering. You can't couldn't change behaviors that you are unaware of.

Transcribe Your Speech[edit]

If your ego can handle more difficult homework, have someone videotape you in a stressful speaking situation. The tape should have you talking for at least three minutes.

Now play the tape back, and transcribe what you said. Count the syllables.

Watch the tape again, counting your dysfluencies. Calculate your stuttering rate. 2% or fewer dysfluent syllables is normal speech. 3-5% dysfluent syllables is mild stuttering. 6-10% is moderate stuttering. More than 10% dysfluent syllables is severe stuttering.

Watch the tape again, measuring your speaking time. Calculate your speaking rate in syllables per second. Non-stutterers can speak about five syllables per second, or three hundred syllables per minute.

Watch the tape again. Mark each dysfluent syllable in your written transcript.

Watch the tape again. Note each type of dysfluency:

  • For repetitions, write down every repetition, e.g., "b-b-baseball."
  • For prolongations, underline the prolonged sound.
  • For silent blocks, write "<block>".

Watch the tape again. Pick out your three longest dysfluencies and time each. Write the times on your transcript.

Watch the tape again. Note your secondary symptoms. Write down every head jerk, facial grimace, eye blink, etc.

When you're finished, read aloud your transcription. Perform your stuttering exactly as did on the tape.

Give your script to your speech-language pathologist. Ask her to perform your script, modeling you.

Your Stuttering Autobiography[edit]

Write your stuttering autobiography. Add it to the chapter My Life in Stuttering.

Describe how stuttering affected your childhood, teenage years, and adult life. Describe your inner, emotional experience of stuttering. Describe each therapy program you've done, and the results.

Over- or Underaware of Stuttering?[edit]

Mild stutterers typically think their speech is worse than it is. A mild stutterer has one little block on baseball and panics. He thinks, "Did the listener notice? I should have been paying attention and seen that a b was coming up. Next time I'll say 'the great American pastime' instead. Or better yet, I'll keep his mouth shut for the rest of the day…"

Severe stutterers typically think that their speech is better than it is. Listeners impassively pretend not notice. During severe blocks, time stops for the stutterer. If you'd asked me how long a dysfluency had been, I would've said a second or two—even when it was actually five minutes or more.

Paradoxically, severe stutterers can be mentally healthier than mild stutterers. They can't hide severe stuttering. Severe stutterers can be willing to work hard at speech therapy. Fluent speech motor exercises, even at two-second stretch, get words out faster than severe stuttering. When severe stutterers learn to talk fluently, they often (not always) easily develop normal professional and personal relationships.

In contrast, mild stutterers, who can hide stuttering, often have more severe psychological disabilities. They're hesitant to do speech therapy. Using therapy skills (e.g., slow speech, or voluntary stuttering) alerts listeners that the individual stutters. Even if they successfully complete a speech therapy program and can talk fluently, they think their new fluent speech sounds "weird" and prefer their old speech (even after they hear themselves on tape and admit that their new speech sounds normal). Fluency shaping speech therapy can be a breeze for mild stutterers, because their brains don't need much rewiring. But their psychological disabilities can keep them from talking for years.