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Idaho State University stuttering clinic takes holistic approach to treatment, “First of its Kind”

Posted June 3, 2014

An intensive interprofessional fluency clinic being offered at Idaho State University this summer will use a more holistic approach for working with people who stutter, taking into account the emotional tolls they face.

The Northwest Center for Fluency Disorders Interprofessional Intensive Stuttering Clinic will run July 26-Aug. 9. It is a collaborative clinic offered by the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders and Department of Counseling at ISU.

Stuttering affects 1-4 percent of the world’s population and has historically been treated by speech language pathologists using behavioral strategies to modify how the client speaks. Solely focusing on speech disruptions during therapy results in 70 – 90 percent relapse rates and a sense of failure from the client and clinician, according to Dan Hudock, an ISU assistant professor of communications science and disorders who specializes in fluency disorders and stutters himself.Daniel Hudock

“As Joseph Sheehan states, the stuttering syndrome is like an iceberg with what we see being the top 10 percent of the iceberg, while 90 percent of the iceberg’s mass is comprised of the emotions, fears, anxieties and negative thoughts,” Hudock said. “For example, people who stutter know what they want to say, but when they go to say it they can’t.”

Hudock said that clients can be helped to reduce their stuttering by using behavioral strategies, “but if you don’t treat their thoughts and beliefs about their stuttering and their negative experiences of people laughing or making fun of them, it isn’t treating the whole person and relapse is inevitable.”

People who stutter experience higher rates of anxiety, depression, being bullied, and ideation for suicide. Speech language pathologists aren’t trained on how to counsel clients for these associated domains, so why not utilize the expertise of appropriately trained professionals, he said.

“The clinic we are developing is the first of its kind to use interprofessional care to address the multi-dimensionality of the stuttering syndrome,” Hudock said.

The ISU clinic will provide effective evidence-based fluency treatment that targets outward, overt stuttering. Each client will work with one speech-language pathology graduate student to learn strategies to effectively control their stuttering severity.

In addition, each client will work with counseling clinicians in individual and group sessions to engage in confidence-building activities, communication skills analysis, and other activities to decrease the negative impact that stuttering has on the individual.

Since the late 1990s Hudock said there has been an increased emphasis for stutterers to focus on a positive state of mind and not to let stuttering hold them back in accomplishing their goals. Being a person who stutters, Hudock can an attest to the value of this holistic approach.

“Stuttering can have such an isolating effect on those who stutter,” he said. “Since a young age I wanted to get my doctorate in speech language pathology to help and be an inspiration to those who stutter. While attending speech therapy throughout my childhood and as a young adult, I saw many people who would not talk in class, make friends, or live their lives, because of their stuttering.”

He was worked with approximately 200 clients who stutter and his main purpose is to show them that stuttering does not have to control their lives and to help them experience a life less controlled by their stuttering.

“Our clinic hopes to do just that,” he said. “Attending a clinic like this can be a life changing event.”

The clinic is for people who stutter 13 and older. The cost is $1,000, which includes food, lodging and materials for the two-week clinic. Many scholarships are still available based on need. For more information, contact Hudock at hudock@isu.edu or visit http://www.northwestfluency.org/.