Understanding the Speaker’s Experience of Stuttering: Implications for Treatment Outcomes Research
(Note: The following is an abstract of J Scott Yaruss, PhD, CCC-SLP, BRS-FD, presentation at the 7th World Congress on Fluency Disorders in Tours, France.)
The purpose of this presentation is to discuss some of the many challenges facing speech-language pathologists seeking to evaluate treatment outcomes for individuals who stutter. Some of these challenges are related to the variable nature of stuttering, and specifically, to the fact that disrupted speech behaviors can vary notably across different speaking situations and over time. Other challenges are related to the individual nature of stuttering and the fact that every person who stutters experiences their disorder in a unique way, with unique speech characteristics and unique life impacts.
Still other challenges are more centrally related to the nature of the stuttering disorder itself—and to how the speaker’s perspective of the experience of stuttering may differ from that of the clinician or researcher. In fact, it is this fundamental difference in perspective that has led to the confusing and often conflicting findings in stuttering treatment outcomes research. Reconciling the real-world experiences of people who stutter with the assumptions of clinicians and researchers is a necessary step in the process of improving the evaluation of stuttering treatment efficacy, yet accomplishing this goal will require many speech-language pathologists to rethink their understanding of what stuttering is and what it means to be a person who stutters.
This presentation will discuss these and other issues clinicians and researchers should consider in their attempts to improve their evaluation of stuttering treatment outcomes. The presenter will review recent research on evidence-based practice and the nature of the therapeutic alliance, highlight ways that a better understanding of the speaker’s experience of stuttering can help speech-language pathologists guide their clients toward substantive changes in their lives, and propose ways that such changes can be measured in a comprehensive fashion to enhance our ability to identify the key elements of effective stuttering treatment.