Does Stuttering Device Minimize Stuttering Disability?
I tried to avoid talking about any stuttering device previously. The main reason is I do not want to "attack" personally anyone's product. However, I am often asked what I think about this topic. Since I do not want to repeat my answer over and over again, I will post my full response here. It does not matter if you agree or disagree with something I have to say. The most important thing is to derive some benefit from this discussion.
There are so many electronic speech aids available on the market today. DAF, Desktop Fluency System, Fluency Master, Masking Auditory Feedback, Frequency Auditory Feedback, Pocket Fluency System, Telephone Fluency System, Wireless Fluency System are just several of those aids I have come across.
Over the years, I tested almost all electronic devices. There is no shortage of them. It seems as if there is a new device being sold on the market each month. Although the products might have different names, it is very easy to group them together. The main reason is because they operate on the same principles. I will tell you right away I was disappointed with all of them. Some devices I purchased were subsequently donated to my university's speech clinic. As I checked recently, they are now used for demonstration purposes only. I am glad all young speech pathology students are able to learn how these devices work even though I do not personally see any benefit for people who stutter from such learning. The other devices simply broke on their own. I felt there was no need to fix them as they were useless.
As we already discussed, there is more than one electronic device for stuttering you can purchase presently. Generally, all devices can be put into one category. Some of them tend to "mask" one's voice by producing awful sounds into one's years. The others slow down one's speech and change one's pitch.
I know many scientists who created these products can provide us with very complex explanations on how they work. These explanations tend to be based on sound speech principles, which many of ordinary people do not understand. However, it is safe to place each stuttering anti device into one of above categories.
Personally, I am not against anything that can help us to deal with this communication disorder better. If there is anything you can use, which will help you with stammering, I will recommend you to use it. I came across some speech therapists who are against using any fluency device. They stated that such devices are often used as crutches. They act as distractions that can enhance one's fluency only temporarily. Apparently, they would rather teach you how to use prolongations and cancellations. As I understand they are mainly afraid that these crutches will become like those filler words you use in your speech. You rely on them heavily till they become a part of this problem.
While it is true that many of those crutches can become a part of this disorder, I doubt you will use them long enough for it to occur. I know you and I wished many times for those speech crutches to make a difference in our lives. Often, when something worked for me even temporarily, it stopped working after some period of time. Thus, there was no need for me to continue using it.
However, my personal experiences with speech aids do not really matter.
The main question, however, is as follows:
Does your stuttering device minimize stuttering disability even to some degree?
Well, if you used any electronic products for this disorder in the past, you are already screaming out the answer right now. Of course, the answer is NO!
I bet most of you never thought about the possible reasons why very complex products have failed to work. I will give you a full answer right now.
1) YOUR FOCUS REMAINS ON SPEECH IN A REAL WORLD.
You see many electronic products for stuttering are essentially meant to distract you from focusing on your speech during your conversation. For instance, the device that masks your voice operates on this principle. If you do not focus on your speech or do not hear your voice when you try to speak, then your stuttering problem will be minimized to a certain degree. Nevertheless, the reduction of stuttering under these circumstances only occurs in your speech therapist's office.
When you are being placed in an "artificial" environment, such as your speech pathologist's office, you do not have a very high level of stress. That is, you are already know your environment. Your speech therapist already knows you stutter. When you will be trying your electronic speech aid, the ideal environment for reduction of stuttering has already being created. No wonder you will start speaking more fluently.
Now, please step out in a real world and try the same thing. You focus will remain on your speech. You will have a high level of anxiety. You will be nervous even when you wear your newly purchased expensive piece of junk. Many people who stutter even report they are not even aware of the device being attached to their ears and throat when they are facing a conversation in a real world. In fact, they only thing that they can focus on is their speech.
2) THERE ARE NO SECONDARY SYMPTOMS OF STUTTERING IN YOUR THERAPIST'S OFFICE.
I already discussed this reason above. We all know stuttering disability is very complex. There are more components to stuttering than one's speech. People who stutter have anxiety, panic attacks, lack of self-confidence and other emotional baggage. Collectively, these symptoms are called secondary. In your therapist's office, these symptoms are no longer "visible." Yet, they will pop in when you step outside. When you are generally calm, you really do not need any electronic product to speak more fluently. You can do it on your own.
There is a common pattern you can observe during any college speech therapy. When you meet your new clinician, you might stammer a little. However, when you get used to her, you will be speaking as fluently as she is. This will typically happen towards the middle or the end of each college term. Many clinicians wrongfully assume it is their work with you that has led to such "dramatic improvement" in fluency. It is the same effect of artificial environment I already discussed above.
Familiar and low-stress environment (your therapist's office)= no secondary symptoms of stuttering= fluency. This formula is very simple. Yet, many therapists ignore it. It is the main explanation why everything works in your clinician's office and does not work when you step outside.
By the way, there is nothing you can really do to make things work. If some speech failure "takes place" in a real world, most therapists have one explanation for it. You did not work hard enough on your prolongations. Work hard on them. You will experience exactly the same effect when you step outside. You cannot say even several words fluently. This is a very painful and sad thing to realize. You just threw your money on something that has not produced even smallest positiive result.
3) THIS PIECE OF EQUIPMENT IS "ABLE" TO ADDRESS ONLY ONE COMPONENT OF THIS DISORDER.
Again, I seemed to talk about it already. The reason, which is stated above, is probably the main reason why your electronic product will not minimize your stuttering disability. All electronic devices deal with only one component of stuttering. It is your speech. We all know there are so many of them. However, the devices cannot address those components no matter how great there are. When the other components of stuttering are left untreated, they will surely bring back stuttering.
Speech aids cannot prevent you from feeling anxious. They cannot stop your panic attacks. They cannot prevent your heart from racing. They cannot eliminate your fear of speaking. Often, these aids cannot even decrease the level of your disfluency. Since they do not work, they cannot even boost your self-confidence.
There are also some other things I want to discuss with you briefly. As you know most devices cost over $ 1,000 US dollars. Some cost $ 4,000-5,000 dollars. Purchasing any electronic product to treat this condition is a major financial investment for people in all occupations, not just college students. Many companies do not give enough time to test it. Even when you return the product, these companies will issue you only a partial refund.
Let's assume you want to purchase one specific electronic device for stuttering. You will have only 30 days to test it. It sounds good initially. However, when the product is being shipped to you, you will need to wait probably one week to receive it. You will need a few days to figure out how to use it. You will also need time to ship it back or you will not even get a partial refund for several thousands of dollars you just paid. Consequently, your time to test the product will be extremely limited. The manufacturers do hope the time to test it will lapse fast or they will suffer a financial loss.
Do not also assume that when you paid, you will stop dealing with the manufacturer. Many devices break once your warranty expires. Most warranties expire in one year. You will be paying for the same junk over and over again. Why? The main reason is many manufacturers always try to find ways to minimize their costs. Do not be suprised to find your device is made of cheap materials or it was put together hastily somewhere in China. No wonder now it cannot be even turned on!
It also needs to be pointed out that electronic products will make you look weird and strange to other people. Even when you have a very long hair, people can still see there is something being attached to your throat. Many people also assume you have a hearing problem when you wear your device. I know what you are saying now...Who cares as long as I do not stutter? However, you will stutter and look weird to others at the same time. As we all have already examined, these products do not decrease stuttering in a real world.
Lastly, I just wanted to mention something you probably have not thought of yourself. The devices that make sounds are not good for your hearing and your brain. Let me illustrate it. Let's assume you have a CD player with ear plugs. You like listening to your favorite music. In fact, you listen to it every day for many hours. If the volume of your music is high enough, you will eventually begin to lose your hearing. What if you have a device that makes awful noises in order to prevent your from hearing your own voice? Do you think your hearing will stay the same? Also, noone has studied the effect of such products on your brain. Do you think wearing something like this will have no negative effect on your brain?
Now, I think we have the answer to our question. It is NO! Stuttering device cannot minimize stuttering disability. Moreover, it might have even potentially damaging effects on your health.