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There are many stories of how stuttering, or stammering – otherwise known as dysfluency – has affected the lives of those who experience this speech disorder. One of these stories is told in the film The King’s Speech, the story of British King George VI.

 

A common theme for stutterers is hitting the ‘wall’, and the panic associated with this fear. The ‘wall’ is the word that the stutterer battles to pronounce. Webster’s College Dictionary, in one of its senses, defines stutter as “to speak with the rhythm interrupted by repetitions, blocks or spasms, or prolongations of sounds or syllables”.

These repetitions, blocks, spasms and prolongations result in anxiety for those who experience the disability. Several research studies have shown that anxiety associated with stuttering is the result of it, not the cause.[2]

What causes stuttering though? The known causes of stuttering are genetics, child development speech and language problems, neurophysiology and family dynamics.[3] But what are the treatments for stuttering, or stammering?

One group of treatments – among a number – for stammering is anti-stammering, or assistive devices.[4] One device among these is the VoiceAmp Fluency VA601i, which has been successful at reducing the stress associated with stuttering and, in the process, significantly improving the quality of life of a number of people. The advantage of this device is that it can be used in conjunction with other therapeutic interventions.

The Bristol Speech and Language Therapy Research Unit is currently running a study investigating the use of VoiceAmp with adults who stutter, and early results are showing increased fluency for some study participants.[5] In addition, a number of stammering and stuttering associations and support bodies have embraced the device.[6]

One line of thought is that with the support of an assistive fluency device, those living with dysfluency begin to experience the benefit of the reduced or eliminated anxiety and stress associated with stuttering. This positive effect improves their self-esteem and confidence, and this has positive knock-on effects in all areas of their lives. Another potential effect is developing a pattern of speech fluency, and a memory of this pattern.

The technology that has made the VoiceAmp Fluency VA601i available today was not available in King George VI’s time, but imagine how his quality of life would have been improved with this fluency assistive device.

For more information on the VoiceAmp Fluency VA601i, visit the VoiceAmp website. Also visit the comprehensive links page of Prof. Judith Kuster, American Speech-Language and Hearing Association-certified speech-language pathologist and professor emerita in the Department of Speech, Hearing and Rehabilitation Services, Minnesota State University, Mankato. For a list of upcoming events related to stammering, visit the events page of the British Stammering Association.