When a child stutters it often affects the entire family.
"We often see parents who feel frustrated and responsible for their child's speech," said Professor Peter Ramig of the University of Colorado at Boulder. "One of the first things I try to do is to educate parents that they are not responsible for causing their child's stuttering."
Helping parents, teachers and speech pathologists understand stuttering and learn about effective therapy techniques is the goal of a new videotape offered by the nonprofit Stuttering Foundation of America. Ramig is one of five nationally recognized experts appearing in the program.
The 38-minute video features students in first through sixth grades. The children talk about their experiences with stuttering and are shown in different types of therapy sessions.
"The video is intended to give speech-language pathologists the tools they need to deal with stuttering in this age group, but it also offers good ideas for parents and teachers," he said. "We focus on demonstrating a variety of therapy strategies that are appropriate in working with children who stutter."
More than 3 million Americans stutter, yet stuttering remains misunderstood by most people, said Ramig, who is a recovered stutterer himself and teaches and researches in the CU-Boulder department of speech, language and hearing sciences. Myths that people who stutter are less intelligent or suffer from psychological problems still persist.
"It is desirable for parents to play an active role in treatment," said Ramig. "They need to understand what their child is learning and they need direction and support to help them be an active part of the overall process."
While most experts do not believe that parents cause stuttering, there can be environmental influences that exacerbate the problem, he said.
Early speech therapy at a very young age is the most effective way of reducing stuttering, and 40 percent to 60 percent of such recipients have no further problem, Ramig said. Qualified speech clinicians also can help teen-agers and older adults become more fluent. A videotape made especially for teen-agers who stutter also is available from the Stuttering Foundation of America.
The new video, titled "Therapy in Action: The School-Age Child Who Stutters," is being distributed free of charge to public libraries nationwide. Individual copies may be ordered by calling 1-800-992-9392 or by writing the Stuttering Foundation of America, P.O. Box 11749, Memphis, TN 38111-0749.