I have experienced stuttering through many different points of view. First, as a person who has stuttered his whole life. I grew up in a smaller town in northwest Ohio. I stuttered very severely for most of my childhood, and struggled mightily. As a kid, I really wanted to stop stuttering. More than anything. I tried hard, I worked with many well-meaning speech-language pathologists who meant well. Unfortunately, my therapy was not helpful in the way that I needed. Though we focused exclusively on ways to speak fluency, I only continued to stutter worse. Since my only goal was to not stutter, I began to do so many things to not stutter that I only realized later was making my stuttering so much more severe. My stuttering continued to get worse as I started college, but over time I learned some ways to help myself communicate easier. I also learned a lot about myself, and the place the stuttering had in my life. I have, and continue to have, a chronic condition that is not going anywhere. It is a part, a small part, of who I am. It is just that the condition seems to manifest itself over time. I learned to be more assertive, introspective, outgoing, and confident. My speech also improved.
Second, as a student of in speech-language pathology and as one who completed a clinical fellow working with people with a lot of different communication disorders. Again, I was expected to be fluent when doing therapy, which I knew was never going to happen consistently. I had to educate parents, clients, and supervisors that I could be effective whether I stuttered or not. I became able to be more fluent, and did well in therapy. I did have one supervisor tell me, after I completely ACED the placement, that I should return to therapy because I just was not fluent enough. I was able to shake this situation, and several other, and became a solid clinician. Unfortunately, I was able to graduate with only 4 therapy hours with people who stutter, which seemed unfortunate. When I asked why, the answer was always that “you are well prepared to work with people who stutter because of your own experiences, others will get no experience and have no past with stuttering.” I also did not work with anyone who stutters in my clinical fellowship year. This lack of experience was problematic at the time, but seemed to not be all that rare.
I then experienced stuttering as a true student of stuttering, as a doctoral student and bourgeoning specialist in treating people who stutter. I was at Penn State University. I studied the disorder intensely, learning so much about the nature and impact of stuttering. Much I had experienced and could relate to, but also much I had not considered before. I also worked with a number of people who stutter and lead my own chapter of the National Stuttering Association. I also began to understand what I had missed in my previous therapy and training, and what I wanted to bring to my future clients and students.
As a professor and Board Recognized Specialist in Fluency and Fluency Disorders, I have worked hard to offer great clinical services for my community, and training opportunities for my students. Most of my research has actually focused on how to improve clinical services, and how people describe positive outcomes from their therapy experiences (outcomes from the clients point of view). Two consistent issues continue to occur through all of these experiences. People who stutter tend to come to therapy believing they must be fluent, but often experience things through their therapy that are much more helpful than fluency “techniques.” In fact, I have learned and developed my programs such that we really spend little to no time teaching fluency skills. Other approaches are just more helpful. Second, I continue to be amazed at how little clinical experience and training exists in the area of stuttering. Many speech-language pathologists simply know very little about stuttering, and what are the best ways to approach helping children and adults who stutter. I also continue to realize how few SLPs actually work with people who stutter. People who stutter are misunderstood, and underserved.
My professional (and personal goal) is to improve the access for people who stutter to appropriate treatment. As a part of my efforts, I want to offer a variety of opportunities for SLPs to learn more about stuttering, and how to help people who stutter. I have done some of this through my academic position, but now hope to expand these efforts through my role as Chief Academic Officer with AccuTx. Please visit AccuTx University and learn more about stuttering today.