Straight talking on speech disorder
Imagine how it might feel to go to say something and realise you can’t get the words out.
This is the reality faced by those affected by stuttering, a speech disorder that can take away the confidence and self esteem of many sufferers.
The Stuttering Treatment and Research Trust (START) is running an information evening this month to raise awareness about challenges faced by those who stutter.
START speech therapist Janelle Irving says one of the most common misconceptions about stuttering is that it is related to an emotional problem.
‘‘The current thinking around stuttering is that it’s a physical problem, it’s to do with the neural processing. It’s not emotional, which is a real myth out there.
‘‘Everyone thinks stuttering is because people are anxious or nervous.’’
Stuttering can range from mild to severe and affects all ages – about one per cent of the population – although boys are four times more likely to stutter than girls.
A person can stutter on any word, although some sounds may be more difficult to pronounce than others, such as a hard sound like p, c or w. It can be an issue of repetition of a sound, a prolongation or a total block, whereby the person can’t say the word at all.
Principal Youth Court judge Andrew Becroft understands the issue more than most.
He has stuttered since he was a child and is a guest speaker at the evening.
Judge Becroft says stuttering ‘‘dominated’’ his life growing up and he resorted to using notes in shops and on buses to let others know of his requests.
‘‘I never put my hand up in class and even if I did, the teachers didn’t ask me,’’ Judge Becroft says. ‘‘I was the only prefect not to read out notices.’’
Judge Becroft’s stuttering began at the age of 21⁄ the day his mother brought his new brother home from the hospital, which he believes was a ‘‘trigger incident’’ for the condition.
His stuttering takes the form of a block, whereby he can’t get the word out.
It wasn’t until Judge Becroft graduated from Auckland law school in his 20s that he finally found what would transform his life – a three week semiresidential course at Auckland Hospital where a speech therapist gave him techniques to achieve fluency.
Judge Becroft says he uses techniques like the passive airflow technique which means his stutter is well controlled.
‘‘Stutterers can do anything’’ was the message that the judge was always given by his parents.
‘‘Stuttering need define us,’’ he says.
While the 5 to 10 per cent of young children who begin to stutter will grow out of it, both Judge Becroft and Ms Irving advocate the need for early intervention to prevent the disorder from continuing into adulthood.
‘‘If we can treat them in the preschool years there’s a really high percentage of being able to eliminate the stuttering,’’ Ms Irving says.
The information evening will be held on July 11 at The Parenting Place, 300 Great South Rd, Greenlane from 7.30pm till 9.30pm. Tickets cost $40. Guest speakers are fParents Inc founder Ian Grant and principal Youth Court judge Andrew Becroft.
Go to stuttering.co.nz, email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 379 6364 for more information.
Techniques: Principal youth court judge Andrew Becroft says he began stuttering when he was 21⁄ years old and it ‘‘dominated’’ his life growing up.
Head start: Speech therapist Janelle Irving works primarily with preschoolers, an age at which stuttering is largely reversible.