Understanding Stammering: The theoretical module

Traditional speech-therapy approaches for stammering:Fluency-shaping and Block-modification

Although there is a bewildering array of different speech therapy techniques that are available to treat stammering, they can be divided into two broad approaches, according to what they are trying to achieve. The first, and oldest approach is “Fluency-shaping”. The aim of fluency-shaping therapies is to suppress the primary symptoms of stammering so that when using such techniques, one tends not to produce stammering repetitions, prolongations, or blocks. These techniques work in a symptomatic way, a bit like taking an aspirin for a headache. As such, although they can be very effective at reducing the overt symptoms, they tend not to decrease people’s fear of stammering and their beneficial effects are usually only temporary, and the stammering tends to return as soon as one stops using them.

In contrast, “Block-modification” therapies for stammering focus on helping stammerers better manage their secondary symptoms to make them less extreme and disruptive, and (in theory at least) block modification therapies should help reduce one’s fear of stammering—through helping stammerers to learn a milder form of stammering, and then encouraging them to allow themselves to stammer openly and to stop trying to avoid it.

The following two slide-shows explain these two approaches in more detail.

New approaches:

Orchestral Speech and the Jump

In this online course, we teach a new fluency shaping technique which we have called Orchestral Speech and a new block modification technique which we have called “the Jump”. Both Orchestral Speech and The Jump have been developed from the Variable Release Threshold Hypothesis, and both techniques constitute practical applications of that hypothesis. In the slideshow below, we describe, from the perspective of the Variable Release Hypothesis, how these two new fluency-enhancing techniques exert their effect. Before watching this slideshow, you need to have first of all worked through the YouTube videos discussing the primary and secondary symptoms of stammering, and also the webpage and associated slideshow outlining the Variable Release Threshold hypothesis.

The following articles highlight some potential pitfalls associated with the traditional forms of Block Modification therapy and provide some insights into some of the more subtle aspects of avoidance and non-avoidance.

Van Riper’s Block Modification Techniques: Might they sometimes do more harm than good?

The paradox of non avoidance

The uses and abuses of disfluency

Understanding Stammering: The theoretical module