Eastern Washington University is hosting an intensive summer workshop for people working to manage a stuttering disorder, July 9-23, at the University Hearing and Speech Clinic on the EWU Spokane Campus.
The Successful Stuttering Management Program (SSMP) program was developed 52 years ago by Emeritus Professor Dorvan Breitenfeldt, and has been utilized at Eastern since then. SSMP helps clients learn to control and gain confidence in their stuttering, while also training student clinicians on how to work with people who stutter.
This year, eight individuals who stutter are participating in the program, guided by 16 student clinicians and three former workshop participants. The student clinicians are undergraduate and graduate students in the university programs for communications disorders – a cooperative program of EWU and WSU students in speech-language pathology.
“I think [the student clinicians] come to really understand the issue of stuttering. For many of them, this is their first clinical experience,” said Robbie Jackson, graduate program director for the Communication Sciences and Disorders Department. “They learn what the role of clinician or therapist is. It’s not just chatting – it’s being directive, it’s being reinforcing, it’s being overt with the type of activities you’re asking someone to do.”
The therapy includes both group and individual work to meet the specific needs of each person. The program is divided into three sections: first, dealing with the fear of stuttering; second, learning techniques to control stuttering; and third, maintaining that approach.
“All of these people have stuttered since they were children, which is called developmental stuttering. So this is something that has been part of them forever,” Jackson said. “We’re really working on getting all of the stuttering behavior out in the open instead of a covert way.”
The program does not advocate for a cure, but is designed to assist the stutterer in managing the stuttering, the elimination of word and situation fears and developing improved attitude and self-image.
“This is tremendously courageous for [people who stutter],” Jackson said. “It’s like facing your worst fear and then having to do that for 8 hours a day, plus homework at night. It’s pretty exhausting. I really value and honor the courage they demonstrate.”