Helping a PWS (person with stuttering) is more than working on mechanics. Rather, the purpose of our work is to liberate and enrich the human experience through increased freedom and the power of speech. Our work , therefore, is a dynamic process: working from the outside-in and the inside-out, planting values and building great communicators by drawing out the intrinsic greatness within each person.
Stuttering is a neurologic, physical condition which generates unpredictable, involuntary, intermittent interruptions in the automatic, effortless, seamless transition from one sound to the next (or from silence to sound). The frequency and intensity of these interruptions vary widely from moment to moment. We know enough to know that they are not simply caused by emotional or cognitive variables. We also know enough to say stuttering is multifactorial and can be exacerbated by any number of triggers, including but not limited to: speech intensity, speech rate, fatigue, emotional arousal, hormonal changes, language complexity, and social-emotional circumstances. The speaker can have a clear flow of thought and motor planning, and still experience interruptions.
Consider the typical speech motor system, which could be likened to an intricate ballet performed in super-fast speed (vocal folds the size of your pinky fingernail move hundreds of times per second!). As is true in dance, each articulatory posture in speech needs to transition with flow from the one which precedes it while, at the same time preparing for the posture which follows. The physical aspect of stuttering introduces unpredictable disruptions to this intricate ballet, even though the speaker “knows” the dance well and may have performed it tens of thousands of times before, without a single glitch. The person who stutters knows what they want to say and may have said the words fluently before. But stuttering is the experience of unintentional interruptions to that regular flow of speech. There are three different types of disfluencies - “hesitations”, “repetitions” and “prolongations”. Any person who stutters, may have one or more of these disfluencies which characterize their personal stuttering condition. These terms - “hesitations”, “repetitions” and “prolongations” - are descriptions of the surface behaviors which are the observable representation of the physical aspect of stuttering. The traditional assessments use percentage of syllable stuttered (%SS) as a surface measure of the physical behaviors of stuttering. But these terms and assessments only relate to the physical, “bodily” aspect of stuttering. When working with a person who stutters, we need to tune-in to things that cannot be seen, heard, or measured by outside observations. For the experience which cannot be seen or heard is as real, and often as challenging, as the moment of interrupted speech may be.