Straight talk­ing on speech dis­or­der

Central Leader - - NEWS - By AMY BAKER

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.

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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 sup­port@start.org.nz 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.

Photo: AMY BAKER

Head start: Speech ther­a­pist Janelle Irv­ing works pri­mar­ily with preschool­ers, an age at which stut­ter­ing is largely re­versible.

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