6 Little Changes That’ll Make a Difference with Your Stammering
Learn about six little changes that will help fix your stammering and improve your confidence.
Are you a person who stammers? Are you looking for some support to improve your fluency? Have you been through therapy previously and want some quick refreshers?
Well look no further, in this blog we’ll be talking about 6 little changes you can make that’ll hopefully have a positive impact on both your confidence and your stammer.
Stammering (also known as ‘stuttering’) is a motor speech disorder that impacts speech fluency. It includes: repeated sounds, syllables or words; prolonged sounds; blocks (sounds that get stuck). People that stammer may also move their head or body involuntarily. For example: tensing muscles, looking away when speaking or blinking frequently.
#1 Pace yourself & reduce stammering risk in your conversations.
Oftentimes, because of how fast-paced life is, we may also find ourselves rushing through speech just to keep up the tempo. However, rushing through speech can actually lead you to: stammer, mix up your words or have trouble getting your thoughts out.
You might be sitting here thinking, “I’m so tired of being told to slow down, it never works, how can this be the first suggestion?!” Well, slowing down on its own doesn’t guarantee 100% stammer free speech. BUT when you pace yourself, you get the opportunity and time to use those strategies you learn in sessions that help reduce stammering in speech.
So our suggestion at Voice Science is to slow down and take your time to implement those fluency techniques. Afterall, we want to hear everything you have to say! So take a deep breath, gather your thoughts and set a steady pace.
#2 Set small, realistic goals to keep up your practice stamina.
Continual goal setting outside of sessions can be really important for taking the techniques you learned in therapy to the outside world.
When setting a goal, if you only think about the big end result, you might end up feeling overwhelmed by how far you’ve got to go to achieve it. If you’re at this stage and are feeling energised and motivated, that’s excellent! But first we need to take a step back and set smaller goals and milestones to improve our practice stamina so we don’t end up experiencing burn out.
So how do we approach setting small realistic goals?
Be honest with yourself and understand what expectations are the right fit.
Even if you’re someone who has finished a block of therapy recently and feel much more confident, setting the goal of “100% fluency for 24 hours” might still be too much pressure.
Don’t be afraid to start small and set up short blocks of practice to reduce stress and performance anxiety.
E.g. My goal for today is having one 5 minute conversation with someone at work with 100% fluency, or whatever optimum fluency means for you.
Goals don’t always have to focus on your speech.
You may want to fix other behaviours you’ve noticed that occur during periods of stammering such as tensing facial muscles. So your new goal could be “during conversations with my coworkers today, I will release my jaw and relax my facial expression to reduce muscle tension.”
Stammers are personal. The ways in which people who stammer experience life and navigate their stammer will always be different. Changing goals is a really great way to get to know yourself and your stammer and find out what it is you really want for your communication.
Just like in archery, our arrow has to be aimed and pointing in the right direction to hit the bullseye on the target.
#3 Bring some new life to your fluency practice.
During therapy you might find yourself nailing the exercises and leave wondering why it’s so difficult to do the same in real life, well, it’s all about maintenance! Just like a tennis player might spend hours training their serve before it becomes automatic, the same goes for stammering techniques. The goal is to bring all the techniques you learn in therapy into the real world. So continue practising even after your sessions are up.
Don’t feel dejected if you don’t get it 100% of the time, even Nadal misses his serves sometimes!
So how can you make practice enjoyable?
Problem: It’s difficult to see if what I’m practicing actually does anything, it doesn’t feel like I’ve progressed!
Solution: Keep a journal, write down a brief sentence about your fluency and comment on any notable interactions. When you feel like you’re stuck and can’t progress, open up the early pages for motivation and take some time to reflect on how far you’ve come.
Problem: I’m getting bored of doing the same old thing, I want to try something else but I’m not sure what.
Solution: Set different goals for yourself, instead of honing into one goal, try test different things. Maybe on Monday you work on relaxing your body during conversations and on Thursday you focus on using speech techniques in conversation.
Here at Voice Science, working with adults is our bread and butter, try our FREE Stuttering Practice Tech Stack Guide for more resources and tips that will help bring your techniques from the clinic into the real world!
#4 Advocate for your stammer and your right to show up as you are.
Here at Voice Science we like to focus on building your confidence so that you can advocate for yourself and for your stammer across all speaking environments.
So what does advocacy sound like?
It doesn’t always have to be an extra loud statement or a banner that you wave at every meeting, advocacy can be subtle for example:
- I have a stammer/stutter.
- My stammer might impact the time I need during conversations and the way you understand me.
- Sometimes I need a bit longer to get all my thoughts out and I feel better when others wait for me to finish what I’m saying.
- Please don’t talk over me, I haven’t finished what I want to say.
It’s up to you how much information you want to share. If you don’t feel comfortable discussing specifics, that’s your right and choice! Do what’s best for you.
#5 Make an action plan for real-life challenging contexts.
Here at Voice Science, we prefer to say ‘practice makes progress’ rather than ‘practice makes perfect’. The best way to make progress is by practising in real world settings. For you this means speaking up, participating and taking advantage of as many moments as you can to communicate.
Picture it like this 💭
When you were younger and learning how to ride a bike, did you learn by reading books or by getting on a bike and just having a go?
For most people it’s the latter, no matter how much you study to ride a bike, you won’t actually learn unless you physically get on the bike and give it a go.
By participating in conversations and talking to others, you get comfortable with the idea of speaking and become more aware of areas that you need to focus your practice. Avoidance can lead to anxiety in social situations. By making avoidance our safety net, we can easily close ourselves off from taking part in interactions we’d like to participate in.
We know how difficult it can be to take that first step and put yourself out there. If speaking in group settings is a goal for you, scroll back up and remember tip 2: set small and realistic goals for yourself. Begin by controlling the size of the group and practice fluency techniques with 2 friends or family members that you’re comfortable with. Once you feel confident at your current level you’re ready to move up. From here try speaking in a slightly larger group of friends and level up again to multiple colleagues when you’re ready.
#6 Use mindfulness to address your stress.
Research shows that anxiety and stress are common experiences alongside stammering, given how individuals may spend more time planning, problem-solving or thinking about their speech (either positively or negatively). Experiencing an overwhelming amount of thoughts without any skills or knowledge on how to process them can be draining. If this is something that concerns you, you might want to try being more mindful! So what is mindfulness?
A state of being in which you focus on being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment without interpreting or judgement.
These techniques help you overcome the concept of change by “letting be” rather than trying to fix. Practising mindfulness encourages people to open up to difficult experiences which can reduce the occurrence of a negative cycle of thoughts, feelings and behaviours. It aims to shift the negative thinking pattern into one of acceptance and create positive feedback.
Mindfulness can help direct your attention away from negative thoughts and allow you to engage in the world around you. Some examples of mindfulness are:
- Taking time to experience your environment with all your senses
- Focusing on breathing techniques
- Practising meditation
- Other activities that allow you to assess your thoughts and feelings and process them
If you need more help or deeper insight into how to cope with the anxiety and stress that may come with your experiences stammering, Voice Science recommends reaching out to see a psychologist.
So now that you’ve come so far, you might be thinking ‘where should I go from here?’
Well, if you’re itching for more tips, looking for extra support, wanting feedback or just continuing practice, we’ve got you covered!
Book an assessment appointment today if you’re new to Voice Science and we’ll provide you with the best evidence pathway for your stammering concerns.
- Mongia, M., Gupta, A. K., Vijay, A., & Sadhu, R. (2019). Management of stuttering using cognitive behavior therapy and mindfulness meditation. Industrial psychiatry journal, 28(1), 4–12.
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Individually tailored clinical stuttering assessment undertaken by one of our speech pathologists.
Every Assessment includes:
+ Case history interview to determine the history of the fluency/ stuttering disorder and impacts.
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+ Careful consideration of your current communication needs, workplace setting, career aspirations, areas of concern.
+ Correspondence with your General Practitioner – if desired.
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