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Teen Adult Stuttering

How would you like to...
  • know why and how you stutter in some situations but not in others. What provokes stuttering?
  • become consistently fluent on specific words, specific sounds, and in specific situations that have been a problem for you
  • remove anxiety about stuttering and stop avoidance habits (i.e., word changing)
  • fill in the missing puzzle pieces from previous therapy. Perhaps you have several strategies that serve you well. Can you use them 100% of the time? Would "fine-tuning" help you become more consistent?
  • talk on the telephone more fluently
  • introduce yourself and others more easily
  • read out loud with ease
  • de-mystify stuttering


boy-and-girl-classroomI understand

I had a severe stutter for more than 20 years. My memories of high school were clouded by the avoidance of calling girls, faking sick to escape oral presentations, and changing my words in an attempt to conceal the obvious. I stuttered and it bothered me tremendously. In college I was dropping courses and changing professors to avoid any classes in which oral participation was mandatory. As a young adult, I was only considering careers in which I could limit speech as much as possible. I was convinced that a night time janitor or cleaning airplanes for Delta Airlines might be my dream job. My story “Freedom of Speech” is a short version of my conquering stuttering.

Speech Therapy

In grade school I had several failed attempts at speech therapy. I got fed up with getting worse instead of better and begged to stop going. I struggled all the way through high school and all the way until age 23 before finding a person who could see into my soul. Florence Filley, SLP at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s speech and hearing clinic helped to loosen the shackles of my stuttering. I will forever be indebted to her.

I learned classic stuttering modification techniques such as easy onsets and light contacts intended to initiate words with a loose tongue, loose lips, and easy phonation. Notice that teaching of these strategies presupposes you know when you are going to stutter. What do you think and feel just before the stutter? I’ll answer that later. I also learned to open up, admit I stutter, do voluntary stuttering in shopping malls, and start “coming out.” After attempting and failing to conceal it for so long, it took courage and commitment let down my guard.

I will never forget having lunch with the late Dean Williams, a pioneer in stuttering treatment and a recovered stutterer. When I asked him what the key to overcoming stuttering is he replied: “I’d want to know what I do when I stutter.” At first I felt cheated by the brief, succinct response. I was naively looking for one secret speech trick that would make it all go away if I practiced. I later discovered that I needed to know what happens:

1) Before the Stutter Ever Happens?

What cognitive and affective processes are involved in:

  • Remembering feared words and situations and anticipating stuttering?
  • Creating thoughts and feelings created that panic feeling in my chest when the teacher announced we were going to take turns reading out loud?
  • Personalizing stuttering so strongly that I would not make phone calls, not order the food I wanted, not ask out girls, or refuse to ask for assistance when shopping?
  • Manifesting such anxiousness in my body get so intense that I could not use my speech techniques when I needed them the most?
  • Convincing myself that stuttering was so bad that I needed to change words to prevent experiencing a stutter? As Dorv Breitenfeldt, Ph.D. pointed out to me, avoiding like that is really still stuttering. He was right, it just fertilized my fear.

Question: Imagine you’re nervous about introducing yourself in front of a group. What if you knew exactly how to remove anticipatory anxiety and become calm before speaking?


2) During the Stutter?

What cognitive and affective processes occurred that led me to:

  • Teach myself to look away from listener’s right at the moment of stuttering?
  • Push down my chin and spray mist during my biggest stutters?
  • Insert “ums” and/or repeat phrases when trying to free myself from a speech block? Why not deal with it and say the word?
  • Create the very sensations of anxiousness that the speech techniques were intended for. How did I know when to try an easy onset or light contact with my tongue? What thought or feeling immediately preceded the stutter?

Question: What if you could become very consistent at self-correcting before and during a stutter? By sensing and releasing the tension right at the moment of a stutter you gain control and poise.


3) After the Stutter

How does one explain:

  • Replaying past stuttering events like mental movies?
  • Remembering the words I stuttered on but not the words I was fluent on?
  • Personalizing stuttering and feeling embarrassed about stuttering?
  • Presuming to know what others thought about me because I stuttered?

This is known as mindreading.

Dean Williams was right! I had to know what happened before, during, and after the stutter. I can help you solve this puzzle.


Attempted Solutions Can Become the Problem

What are you doing that gets in the way of more ease and fluency? Take a moment and reflect. Take a piece of paper and list any habits you have that are intended to avoid and conceal stuttering. This is called “chunking down” your stuttering.

making-a-listDo you...

  • Avoid talking at times?
  • Change words when you anticipate stuttering?
  • Look away during stutters?
  • Defer leaving voice mail messages and/or re-record your outgoing message numerous times in an attempt to get a “fluent one?”
  • E-mail when you really should call?
  • Not introduce your self and others when it is appropriate to do so?
  • Anticipate future moments of stuttering and begin to scramble for ideas to conceal your stuttering?
  • Interject “uh” “um” or other unnecessary words and sounds right when you feel the stutter? As though using that “starter” or “filler” will prevent the feared stutter?

Are these choices consistent with achieving freedom of speech? See my article When Attempted Solutions Become the Problem.

A Truly Integrated Approach to Stuttering Treatment

I will help you...

  • Refine your behavioral strategies: if you have learned fluency shaping, stuttering modification, and/or attended an intensive stuttering program, I will help you closely examine which of things techniques is benefiting you and “fine tune” your techniques. I am familiar with all the traditional behavioral approaches to stuttering treatment.
  • Cognitive reorganization offers the therapeutic processes necessary to eliminate anxiety, change limiting beliefs, stop avoidance habits, and several other significant roadblocks to using traditional speech targets. Anyone who has participated in an intensive program and still has problem situations can relate to the power of anxiety and its rule over speech targets.
  • Therapy is customized and personal. Perhaps you have chronic, severe stuttering and need more traditional speech targets initially. Or, you have very mild stuttering on the surface but it bothers you immensely on the inside. I am equipped to help you.

Defining a Specialist: Like the medical field, speech-language pathology (SLP) is broad and is comprised of generalists and specialists. Would you go to a cardiologist for a knee injury? We have professionals in sign language, swallowing disorders, articulation, voice, stuttering, and so on.

What is an ASHA Board Recognized Fluency Specialist? The American Speech-Language and Hearing Association (ASHA) recognized the need for specialty recognition in the complex area of stuttering treatment. A Specialist has a minimum of 5 years experience as a certified SLP. In addition, we have documented training and treatment experience specific to stuttering. Letters of recommendation and testimonials of our proficiency are necessary for acceptance. A Specialist must then meet stringent continuing education standards and documentation of our ongoing treatment of stuttering.

An ASHA Specialty Mentor is the highest recognition given by ASHA to a specialist. These Mentors are carefully chosen and are responsible for helping certify younger SLPs desiring specialty recognition. In addition to the specialization criteria, Mentors must have documented supervision and training of SLPs in the area of fluency disorders.

Tim Mackesey is the only SLP in Georgia to be honored as a Specialist and Specialty Mentor. Atlanta Area Stuttering Specialists is the only full-time private practice devoted completely to stuttering treatment in Georgia.

Contact me to begin the journey toward fluency.