"In other words, these results may reflect the effects of disorganization in interhemispheric processing of information, as well as intrahemispheric competition" (Fitzgerald & Greiner, 1992, p. 396). In fact, because every individual is unique, formulating across-the-board generalizations about adult stutterers can be misleading, but there have been some valuable insights gained from the treatment of adult stutterers and these issues are discussed further below.
Treatment of Adult Stuttering.
Research has shown that approximately 80% of stutterers manage to completely recover from the condition without any clinical intervention, a process that typically takes place during early adulthood or adolescence; such recovery from childhood stuttering is thought to be attributable to increased self-esteem, acceptance of the problem and the resulting relaxation (Gibbons & Sims, 2006). In fact, according to Boberg (1993), "Adult stutterers consist of less than half of all those who ever stutter and should, therefore, be considered a functionally distinct subgroup of stutterers. The possibility that findings obtained from adults whose stuttering problems have persisted may not be pertinent to either the onset of stuttering or to its remission" (1993, p. 159). According to Hood and his colleagues (1996), for those adults that were unable to recover from their stuttering condition during early childhood, successful resolution of the problem was most likely to take place during their mid-20s. Therefore, Healey and Ratner (1999) emphasize that, "For patients, clinicians, and researchers, understanding probable windows of opportunity, as well as probable stages of life when maximal progress in therapy is less likely to be achieved is as important as which treatment approach is followed" (p. 7). Today, adult stutterers therefore represent about 20% of those people that have been unable to make the requisite mental accommodations that will allow them to overcome the problem earlier in life have two primary options for dealing with their condition:
Obtain intensive therapy to correct the stutter. Therapy for adult stuttering, or so-called "fluency shaping," is comparable to the mechanics-based speech therapy that a child would receive and focuses on the mechanics of breathing and the movements of the vocal cords, tongue, lips and jaw -- some fluency-shaping programs are intensive inpatient programs that last about three weeks; or,
Accept it to the point where they no longer feel anxiety because of it. Many adult stutterers report developing coping mechanisms that help them avoid situations where they usually stutter, or formulating specific vocabularies for speaking that have proven effective in the past (Goff, 2000).
The ongoing research concerning the possible genetic link may eventually result in a pharmacological solution to the problem, but there are currently no drug therapy regimens available for this purpose; however, some adult stutterers have reported taking anti-anxiety drugs to cope with the tension they feel when trying to speak (Goff, 2000).
The research showed the incidence of stuttering is low and usually resolves itself by the time an individual reaches adulthood. While the condition is therefore relatively rare among adults, of those adults in the West that do stutter, five times as many men as women stutter, a factor that has led some researchers to conclude that there is a powerful cultural element at play. While a specific organic component has not been identified in all adult stutterers, some studies have found that there be a neurological predisposition or other brain dysfunctions involved in some cases. Finally, the research was consistent in showing that while stuttering cannot be "cured" in the traditional sense, adult stutterers today can obtain formal fluency training assistance and can make the fundamental changes in thinking that may have contributed to the onset of the problem from the outset.
Attanasio, J.S., & Packman, A. (2004). Theoretical issues in stuttering. New York: Taylor & Francis.
Boberg, E. (1993). Neuropsychology of stuttering. Edmonton, Alberta: University of Alberta Press.