Stuttering is not, as many people think, a condition caused by poor parenting or nervous children. Nor is it always a permanent condition. Some children stutter when they are learning to talk and resolve the issue within a year or two. Most stutterers show significant brain processing differences, which suggests stuttering is neurologically based and possibly genetic. Despite years of theories suggesting that relaxation therapy will help stutterers, studies have not supported that these therapies actually reduce stuttering. Instead, the best methods to reduce stuttering are based on fluency shaping therapy, and through the use of anti-stuttering devices.
If you want to reduce stuttering in an adult, the best place to start is by addressing stuttering issues in children. By far, children who are treated for stuttering are much more likely to reduce stuttering in adulthood or to completely eliminate it. In US public schools, any case of stuttering can be freely addressed by a speech language pathologist. In fact, pronounced stuttering in the younger child, as young as 3, qualifies the child for speech language services and special free preschools or therapies. If your child has a pronounced stutter, evidence suggests you should not “wait it out,” but seek treatment for your child while he or she is still very young.
Unfortunately, not all children get needed treatment to reduce stuttering when they are young. This has led to a variety of programs adopted for adults and older children. One method that shows quite a bit of success is fluency shaping therapy. This therapy trains the stutterer to use diaphragmatic breathing, to specifically use the muscles in their jaws, lips and tongue, and to initially slow down speaking. This method first produces a rather monotone voice that is very slow, but later, once people have been able to reduce stuttering, people are encouraged to speed up their language and to add inflection and intonation. A program of this type takes about two years to complete and has about a 75% success rate.
A newer way to reduce stuttering, which does not involve programs or therapy is to use stuttering devices. Two of the most effective are delayed audio feedback (DAF) and frequency-shifted audio feedback (FAF). What these devices do is to slightly change the way a person hears his or her own voice. With DAF, people experience a slight, literally a few tenths of a second, delay prior to hearing their own voice. FAF devices transmit voice sounds at a different pitch. Both of these devices have about a 70% success rate in their goal to reduce stuttering, without any additional therapy. Combined with therapy, they may be even more successful.
People may argue that stuttering occurs most when a stutterer is stressed. Instead, speech language pathologists believe that stutterers may evolve stressful stuttering because of the way they have been treated. They may fear to speak, or be concerned about how they will appear to others. They may be suffering from post-traumatic stress from having been teased for stuttering as children.
These emotional scars can affect stuttering but do not cause it. Methods to reduce stuttering in stressful situations may involve cognitive behavioral therapy or talk therapy to help a person recover from the emotional damage inflicted by others because they stuttered. Stuttering support groups can also help people work out their own emotional difficulties with stuttering, and may help to reduce stuttering that is exaggerated when people feel pressured.