For people who stutter, the most pressing question must be "How to Stop Stuttering in 30 days", or even "How to Stop Stuttering Now and Whenever I Speak!".
Stuttering is fairly well known to most people such that even any stranger you meet may be inclined to give you advice if you stutter. But why is it that the most common advice may not be helpful at all to help you stop your stuttering?
One of the most important reasons is that most people do not realize that for the 1% of the population who stutters, it has been scientifically proven that their brain activity is significantly different from a non-stutterer's.
In other words, advanced brain scanning technology shows that different parts of the brain are activated when a stutterer speaks – even when there is no stuttering in the sentence.
This means that if you want to know how to stop stuttering, you need to learn how to use the parts of the brain that should be used, and learn to co-ordinate them in order to speak fluently. You need to 'rewire' how you speak. That's why many speech fluency programs are called 'speech restructuring' programs.
One myth about how to stop stuttering is that you should just learn to be more confident, or "relax". It is not about learning to be more confident.
Saying that it's all about being confident would be like saying you can drive a manual car the way you drive an automatic car, and expect it to work – as long as you drive 'with confidence'. That's not how it works.
As a qualified speech therapist with over 24 years of experience helping clients learn how to stop stuttering and stay fluent, I would like to share some tips based on scientific evidence about how the brain is involved in producing fluent speech with no stutters:
1. One part of the brain that is involved in producing fluent speech without stuttering is the front part of the brain (frontal cortex), which is responsible for how you plan, and execute the 'motor' or physical movements for speech (moving your vocal cords, your lips, your tongue etc).
So, in order to learn how to stop stuttering, you need to make changes to how you use your brain to control and produce movements of your lips, tongue, vocal cords, and all the muscles involved in speech.
Many of the most successful and established speech therapy programs include some form of 'speech restructuring', or training the speaker to actively produce speech movements in some new and different ways that are more conducive to fluent speech movements.
2. A second key area of the brain that is involved when non-stutterers produce fluent speech is the part of the brain that is not involved in producing the movements, but is rather, involved in sensing, or raising your own speech. This area is at both sides of the brain, especially on the left side, near the ears and is responsible for 'auditory feedback', how you hear yourself.
It has been well established that if you have ears on, and hear your own speech played back to you with some very small, split-second delays, this 'delayed audit feedback' has a significant effect on speech fluency.
By manipulating the duration of delayed auditory feedback, you can actually enable people with stuttering to stop stuttering, and even make fluent non-stuttering people stutter.
What this means is that if you are working on how to stop stuttering, you should also be aware of the importance of actively listening to yourself. When I work with clients with stuttering, we use real time auditory feedback (versus recording myself and then playing it back later on) and many clients have found it invaluable in working on their speech.
3. The third key area of the brain that is activated when non-stutterers produce fluent speech is in the inner part of the brain (basal ganglia, thalamus, and cerebellum) that is responsible for sequencing speech movements, and the timing, or rhythm .
What this means is that if you are trying to learn how to stop stuttering, you have to learn to conscious sequence speech movements one after another, and pay attention to aspects such as timing, stress of different word syllables etc.
When you say a long word such as 'probability', there are 5 sounds or syllables in the word. Your brain needs to not only produce the sounds, but produce them in the right sequence fluently. One technique would be for you to be aware of the sound that we usually stress, and emphasize that a bit more.
In other words, you would say 'probaBIlity' instead of saying all five syllables in a monotonous way. Many people who stutter find that this creates a kind of physical momentum which greatly facilitates fluent speech production.
As you can see, the latest neuro-imaging technology has pointed the way, or indeed reinforced the importance of working on some very concrete and learnable skills in order to speak fluently, and say what you want when you want and stop stuttering.
As the saying goes, nobody can do your push-ups for you. In addition, as any sportsman can tell you, it's how you practice that makes all the difference. If you follow up on the speech skills introduced here and seek professional speech therapy, you will be well on your way to speaking fluently and stop stuttering.