U of U Program Helps to Free Stutterers

U of U Program Helps to Free Stutterers

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Ed Yeates ReportingFor a person who stutters, simply saying your name can turn into a nightmare. Though stuttering is believed to be a physical phenomenon, the stigma attached to it creates a whole array of psychological problems.

A unique program at the University of Utah deals directly with those difficulties, freeing stutterers from one of their biggest obstacles---fear of embarrassment.

The goal of this Stuttering Management Program is not to achieve fluency. That's nearly impossible. Instead, stutterers are taught coping skills that give them the freedom to speak, even with a stammer.

David DeBerry: "Mmmmmy nnnname is Ddddavid."

With each tally mark, David DeBerry acknowledges the stutter he has struggled with almost his entire life. For the most part, he learned to deal with it by avoiding situations that made his stutter obvious.

David DeBerry: "Once I got started with a company I just stayed on that path because I would have to interview and I was terrified of being interviewed."

DeBerry works as a chemist in Austin, Texas but now wants to become a Christian minister. However, the thought of speaking in front of congregations has always seemed overwhelming, that is until he heard about a unique program at the University of Utah.

The three and a half week summer boot camp offers standard speech therapy but then forces stutterers to do what they fear most.

Amy Dickson: “We are thrown into situations where we have to talk. At first you don't feel very good about talking because myself and fellow stutterers have been in denial so long."

The program was created at Eastern Washington University by Dr. Dorvin Brietenfedlt, himself a stutterer.

Dr. Dorvin Brietenfedlt, Speech Pathologist: “We work with the entire stuttering problem. Stuttering isn't just a communication problem; it's a problem of human living.”

With the help of clinicians, stutterers hit the streets. From asking directions to giving people surveys, stutterers talk to anyone they can find.

Tom Gurrister, Speech Pathologist: “They learn to accept their stuttering...know that they can go into any situation and communicate when they want and how they want.”

Family members notice the results immediately.

Mashid Moaddeb, Mother of Stutterer: "I have seen a big improvement in her confidence."

Her daughter describes the biggest change she has seen in herself.

Behnaz Abomaali: "I feel proud of who I am."

There is no complete cure for stuttering. But at the end of this program, the stutterers leave in control of a problem that before had controlled their entire lives. And they leave with a new freedom. For David DeBerry, that means the confidence to speak before a crowd or even his own congregation someday.

David DeBerry "This program and all you wonderful people have helped me learn that stuttering is not the almost insurmountable problem that it was for me only three weeks ago."

Scientists are not sure what causes stuttering but the latest research points to a different wiring in the brain. Most of the population uses the left brain for all linguistic functions, but almost all stutterers use more of their right brain.

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