No stuttering treatment can completely cure stuttering, but there are a variety of effective treatments available that can greatly reduce or stop stuttering. The type of treatment used depends on the person's age, severity of stuttering, and other individual factors. If you or your child stutters, you need to consult a speech pathologist to determine which therapies will work best. Stuttering treatment typically involves developing a number of speech fluency tools and working to eliminate fears and shame. (Stuttering in Children and Adults: Coping with Shame) A qualified speech pathologist will also encourage and empower the child or adult to take charge and educate others about the condition.
Stuttering Therapy – Help for Children
For very young children, stuttering therapy may prevent the development of a lifelong stuttering problem. A language pathologist can implement certain strategies to help kids learn to improve their fluency and instill positive attitudes about their challenges. Not sure whether your child needs stuttering treatment? Health care professionals typically recommend that parents take their child for an evaluation if he or she:
- Has stuttered persistently for three to six months
- Seems to struggle with speech and communication
- Has a family history of stuttering or other fluency disorders
Some therapists recommend that parents have their child evaluated every three months to check whether stuttering has gotten better or worse. Typically, stuttering treatment involves working with parents on ways to support their child's productive speech. Your child's therapist may recommend that you:
- Provide a calm and relaxed home environment where your child has many opportunities to speak and communicate.
- Avoid exhibiting a negative reaction when your child stutters.
- Refrain from requiring your child speak in a certain way or putting pressure on your child to speak to others.
- Speak slowly when communicating with your child and use a relaxed tone.
- Listen patiently and attentively when your child speaks and wait for him to get his words out.
- Talk openly with your child about stuttering if he asks questions or brings it up.
There are two methods used for stuttering treatment:
- Indirect treatment – this method seeks to teach parents how to provide a relaxing environment so that the child's speech improves on its own. The therapist will encourage parents to exhibit positive speech modeling and to support their child by patiently listening until he gets the entire thought out without trying to finish his sentence or having another negative reaction.
- Direct treatment – this method involves face-to-face therapy sessions between the child and the speech pathologist. The therapist will teach the child to slowly form sounds and words, to speak slowly, and to relax even when struggling to speak. The child will learn how to refrain from the physical symptoms of stuttering like eye blinking and head jerks.
A qualified therapist will also give children tools for coping with teasing and bullying by others because of their stuttering.
How to Stop Stuttering – Teens and Adults
Experts and researchers haven't identified how to stop stuttering entirely, but therapy can help teens and adults minimize stuttering when they speak. Speech management tools therapists develop with patients include:
- learning to speak more slowly
- learning to regulate breathing while speaking
- learning to fluently use monosyllabic responses, then moving on to multisyllabic responses and finally complex sentences
Other strategies involve helping people learn not to entertain shame-based reactions to their stuttering and, instead, to educate themselves and others about fluency disorders.
Medication for Stuttering
Although the FDA has not approved any medication for stuttering, doctors sometimes use certain drugs -- commonly prescribed to treat other health issues -- to treat the disorder. The drugs, (approved to treat things like anxiety, epilepsy, and depression) have side effects that make them impractical to use for the long-term. Researchers are currently looking for other, more effective, medicines to treat stuttering.
Other Stuttering Treatment Tools
Some people use electronic devices that fit in the ear canal and replay a digitally altered version of the wearer's speech to control stuttering. The wearer hears a replay of his voice as if he's speaking simultaneously with another person. For some, these devices improve speech patterns very quickly, but questions remain as to whether the effects will last for real-world encounters. Researchers continue to study the effectiveness of these and other innovative fluency control devices.
Attending sessions with self-help groups, in addition to therapy, have proven very successful for many people. Self-help groups offer support for people who stutter because they can discuss the challenges they face with others who truly understand what they're going through.