The partners of individuals who stutter should be involved in stuttering treatment, researchers advise.
They conducted a mixed methods analysis of 10 couples living with stuttering to investigate each participant's personal narratives and found that anxiety and avoidance matters were the most significant barriers that stutterers faced, while a supportive relationship had the biggest holistic impact.
Janet Beilby (Curtin University, Perth, Australia) and team say that although their study also showed that individuals who stutter do not have the same view on quality of life compared with that of their partner, taken together, these findings could provide support for improved integration of the entire family in the treatment practice.
The research encompassed two components: a qualitative aspect, which explored the main personal concerns that exist for both members of a couple in a relationship where one person stutters; and a quantitative aspect, which assessed the impact of stuttering on each person's life using the Medical Short Form-36 (SF-36) and Overall Assessment of the Speaker's Experience of Stuttering (OASES).
Correlational analysis revealed strong, positive, significant associations between the first, second, and third components of the OASES scale, indicating that people who stutter and their partners reported similar experiences with respect to their knowledge and self-awareness of stuttering, their personal reactions to it, and the extent to which it affected communication.
There were no significant correlations with the fourth component of the OASE scale nor either of the SF-36 subtests, demonstrating that people who stutter did not judge the impact of stuttering on quality of life in the same way as their partners.
As reported in the Journal of Fluency Disorders, the results of the qualitative analysis showed that the majority of adults who stuttered and their partners expressed significant concerns with social interactions. After reflecting on her husband's first speech therapy session, one fluent participant remarked, "I found it really distressing to watch. Really, really distressing."
The second most prevalent theme of the qualitative analysis was avoidance of words or sounds that typically evoked a stutter, avoidance of people and social situations, and resistance to discussion about or recognition of the stutter. One participant explained: "I just try and avoid things when I can. At times I even avoid people. I think that's why I tend to stick to myself. That's much of what I do."
Of note, two of the people who stutter discussed how their partner's acceptance of the stutter and not regarding it as a limitation, was imperative to their potential speech recovery. One wife commented: "I'd encourage everyone to work on being more accepting of themselves as a person who stutters and try not to hide in new smoke and mirrors and avoidance."
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