Three new support groups in Burlington, Vermont are helping people who stutter become effective communicators. The new National Stuttering Association (NSA) Chapter is one of 80 local chapters around the country, the world’s largest association of adults and children who stutter. Three million Americans and 6,000 Vermonters stutter: not because they are nervous or have emotional problems but because they have a complex speech disorder.
“Support meetings are invaluable for people who stutter to know they are not alone and that they can talk openly about their stuttering with people who understand what they are going through,” said chapter co-leader Danra Kazenski. “Our members can talk about ways to manage situations that are often frustrating for people who stutter, such as using the telephone, introducing themselves and public speaking.”
Nobody is sure what causes stuttering. Current research suggests a connection with neurological coordination of the speech mechanism. Speech therapy by certified speech-language pathologists has helped many people who stutter. Chronic stuttering in adults rarely is “cured” but can be successfully controlled by long-term practice and stuttering management techniques.
“Meeting others who stutter and sharing their common experiences has been an enormous help to those who are also receiving individual therapy,” said chapter co-leader Dr. Barry Guitar, a person who stutters. Attending support groups in combination with individual treatment can help people who stutter work on their own goals as well as to mentor and support others.
The NSA works closely with speech professionals and refers people who stutter to speech-language pathologists who have the specialized qualifications needed for effective treatment.
Working with children who stutter and their parents also is a priority for the NSA. Even though most children who stutter recover on their own as they develop, many do not grow out of it. It is important for parents to seek an evaluation for a child who stutters by a speech-language pathologist if the stuttering has not gone away or improved after six months, according to experts.
Some teachers, counselors and pediatricians still advise parents to defer speech therapy and ignore the child’s stuttering in the expectation that it will go away. We know now that that advice can mean a child who needs help may not get the support they need when they need it most and when it is easier to treat.
The NSA sponsors a national conference, regional workshops and publications for adults, children and parents. The Burlington NSA Chapter offers three free support groups: Adults: 5:30-6:30 1st and 3rd Tuesday each month (starting Sept. 2). Teens: 5:30-6:30 1st Thursday each month (starting Sept. 4). School-age children & parents: 4:15-5:15 2nd Thursday each month (starting Sept. 11).
Meetings are held in the Pomeroy Hall waiting room on UVM campus (489 Main Street).