Stuttering is a type of communication disorder which affects the flow of speech. It’s characterized by repetitions, prolongations of syllables, and pauses or hesitations in speech. As children are learning speech skills, it’s normal for them to experience some level of dysfluency, characterized by minor repetition of syllables or hesitations. A child who stutters tends to repeat sounds more than twice, or repeat whole words or phrases. The signs may be accompanied by changes in voice pitch; muscle tension in the lips, jaw, or neck; or unusual body movements associated with efforts to talk, such as foot tapping, eye blinks, or head turns.
According to the Stuttering Foundation of America, more than three million Americans stutter. Males are affected four times more often than females. The cause of the condition isn’t known, and it may be the result of a combination of factors. Stuttering affects both children and adults. Some famous adults who stutter include James Earl Jones, Winston Churchill, and John Stossel.
SpeechEasy for Stuttering
There is no cure for stuttering. However, many people can be helped with speech/language therapy. Therapists have noticed when both a stutterer and another person read aloud, the stutterer becomes almost fluent (reduces or stops stuttering). Researchers have used this knowledge to develop a device that may improve speech fluency in many people who stutter. It’s called the SpeechEasy™.
The SpeechEasy is a tiny programmable unit that contains a powerful microchip. It’s about the size of a hearing aid and is designed to be fit in or behind the ear. As a user speaks, the SpeechEasy delays the speech sounds and shifts their frequency. The technique provides a similar effect on fluency as that seen when reading aloud with another person. Manufacturers say the device leads up to a 95 percent reduction of stuttering in 80 to 90 percent of users.
Cost of the SpeechEasy varies by style and is about $4,000. Patients must be individually fitted for the SpeechEasy. A custom-fitting takes about two hours. While the client reads, a speech/language pathologist adjusts the device to find the right combination of speech delay and frequency shift for maximum fluency. The SpeechEasy device is relatively new. For more information, log on the to company’s website at http://www.janusdevelopment.com.
For information about the SpeechEasy:
Janus Development Group, Inc. Technology Enterprise Center of Eastern Carolina, 1800 N. Greene Street, Greenville, NC 27835, http://www.janusdevelopment.com
Baxter Speech and Fluency Center, 134 Commons Court, Chadds Ford, PA 19317, http://www.baxterspeech.com
For general information on stuttering:
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, http://www.asha.org
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, 31 Center Drive, MSC 2320, Bethesda, MD 20892-2320, http://www.ncdcd.nih.gov
National Stuttering Association, http://www.nsastutter.org
Stuttering Foundation of America, 3100 Walnut Grove Rd., Suite 603, PO Box 11749, Memphis, TN 38111-0749, (800) 992-9392, http://www.stutterhelp.org