Increasingly, initiatives are underway internationally to improve public acceptance and understanding of stuttering; yet, a reliable and valid measure of public beliefs and attitudes toward stuttering does not currently exist. Accordingly, authors will describe the ongoing process of developing such an instrument for an "International Project on Attitudes Toward Stuttering," focusing on issues, problems, and benefits associated with the endeavor.
Accumulating evidence indicates that most nonstuttering individuals in Western society hold negative beliefs and attitudes about those who stutter. In many countries around the world, resources have been devoted to (1) educating the public about stuttering and (2) changing public reactions to stuttering. These initiatives have come from individuals in several professions; intervention programs; and private, self-help, professional, or government organizations. Collaboration on international efforts is increasing.
The supposition generally is that when members of the public have accurate information about stuttering, they will have more positive behaviors and attitudes toward stuttering, and they will share their new found information with others who, in turn, will change their behaviors. Those who stutter seem also to assume that accurate information will be sought and utilized by stakeholders such as other people who stutter and parents in order to decrease negative life impacts of stuttering and to motivate pursuit of effective treatment.
In spite of these public education efforts, no measures have been widely used to examine public beliefs and opinions or to measure change in beliefs as an outcome of educational efforts. Three important implications of this state of affairs are evident.
This brief report summarizes initial stages and long range planning for a collaborative international initiative (“International Project on Attitudes Toward Stuttering” [IPATS]). Long and short term goals of IPATS include:
A prototype survey, tentatively labeled the "Comparative Attitude Survey of Personal Attributes" (CASPA), has been drafted in English. It is a paper-and pencil instrument designed to obtain primary data on public opinion toward stuttering and to allow comparisons with other familiar conditions. (The CASPA will cover attitudes, defined here to include beliefs, feelings, and actions.) It is currently being field tested around the USA and Canada. Results and relevant issues will be presented at the upcoming convention of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association in San Francisco in November, 1999.
Thereafter, the Task Force will complete the next phase of the pilot effort: design and implement translation procedures in 15 selected countries, recruit “partners” in research sites in each country, explore country-specific sample representativeness, and seek the availability of population data in each country against which the respondent samples can be compared. Subsequent steps will include data reduction and analyses. Application to present the pilot data will be submitted to the 3rd World Congress on Fluency Disorders to be held in Nyborg, Denmark, in August, 2000.
After pilot data have been analyzed, the CASPA will be reevaluated, hopefully into its final form. The Task Force again will make plans to translate and field test the instrument in a number of places around the world. This process will require approximately three years to complete. Once finished, translated versions of will be made available to any responsible persons or groups for use in assessing public attitudes toward stuttering.
For More Information, Please Contact:
Kenneth O. St. Louis
Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology
805 Allen Hall, PO Box 6122
West Virginia University
Morgantown, WV 26506-6122
(304) 293-4242, Ext. 1843
FAX: (304) 293-7565