Why Do So Many Stutterers Fail to Stutter When Alone and How Can This Phenomonen Be Used in Treatment?

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Questions about further potential studies on stuttering in public vs. at home

From: Erin McElroy
Date: 03 Oct 2007
Time: 20:45:34 -0500
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Hi Ilia and Natalia, I am a graduate student in Speech-Language Pathology at New York University and am currently enrolled in a Fluency Disorders course, and I just had a couple of questions/comments for you. First, I enjoyed your paper, and found the correlations of the two studies on stuttering with a communicative partner versus at home very interesting. These results certainly seem to make sense if you believe that stuttering is caused both by a genetic component and a temperamental component. For those individuals who experience physical and/or psychological stress during communication with others, it would seem that this aspect of their temperament is enough to induce stuttering in such stressful situations, whereas the genetic component alone would not be enough to cause stuttering (or, perhaps, to cause it to a lesser degree) in the absence of such stressors, such as when reading alone. My question for you is: do you know of any research that has monitored the physical stresses of both those people who stutter in public but not at home, and those who stutter in both situations? I think it would be very interesting to have actual data about the possible increased "fight or flight" autonomic reactions such as increased heart rate during moments of stuttering versus moments of fluency. This would provide quantitative data of physical stresses which may induce stuttering, and provide further "proof" that those majority of people who stutter in public but not in private are doing so due to the increased discomfort of such situations. I believe this could be very insightful, especially since you state in your paper that some people who stutter insist that they do not experience psychological discomfort during communication with others even though they are not disfluent when they are alone. Also, you state that, "It is interesting that when a person who stutters starts to use intonation and pay attention to rhythm, he stops stuttering or his stuttering is greatly reduced." I was just curious if you have any data or studies which show that this has type of therapy has proved to be helpful for those who stutter. I have heard of therapy tools for stuttering of which the purpose is to cause the person stuttering to focus more on rhythm and intonation, though I have not heard before that such tools have been beneficial in reducing or eliminating stuttering. Thanks in advance for any response!

Last changed: 10/25/07