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With some questionable health advice being posted by your friends on Facebook, politicians arguing about the state of the American healthcare system and a new medical study being summarized in just a sentence or two on TV---that seems to contradict the study you heard summarized yesterday---it can be overwhelming to navigate the ever-changing landscape of health news.


“Just take a breath.” “Spit it out.” Do these comments seem conducive to effective communication?

October 22 was International Stuttering Awareness Day.

According to the American Speech and Hearing Association, stuttering affects the fluency of speech. Stuttered speech often includes repetitions of words or parts of words, as well as prolongations of speech sounds. Dysfluencies during the preschool years that are fleeting are very common. Most adults  say “um” from time to time as a vocalized pause; however,  people who stutter  produce too many of these disfluencies, impeding communication and impacting their daily lives.

Diagnosing stuttering requires the skills of a certified speech-language pathologist (SLP). According to Dr. Martha Cook, SLP and  Coordinator of The Center for Speech and Hearing at Southeast Missouri State University, each semester the clinic offers therapy to approximately 6 adults and children who have fluency disorders.  

Most treatment programs for people who stutter are designed to teach the person specific skills that lead to improved oral communication. SLPs teach people who stutter to monitor the rate at which they speak. People may practice fluent speech at rates that are much slower than typical speech. Over time, people learn to produce smooth speech at faster rates until speech sounds both fluent and natural.
When talking with people who stutter, give them the time they need to say what they want to say. Try not to finish sentences for them. Suggestions like "slow down," or  "relax” can make the person feel even more uncomfortable because these comments suggest stuttering should be simple to overcome...and it's not.

Dr. Martha Cook

Dr. Brooke Hildebrand Clubbs is an assistant professor in the Department of Leadership, Middle & Secondary Education. She writes for special publications of The Southeast Missourian and is a certified Community Health Worker.
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