VSM lends a helping hand to those suffering from stuttering

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University of Alberta’s Institute for Stuttering Treatment and Research (ISTAR) have turned to videos for treating stuttering in a pioneering study that has produced amazing results.

In the pilot, conducted by Jessica Harasym, a speech-language pathologist with ISTAR, participants videos were recorded post-treatment when their fluency skills–breathing techniques, how to start their voice, or move forward in speech–were at their peak.

Participants were then required to watch their videos at least twice a week so as to give them an idea of where in when they are stuttering providing them clues about where improvements can be made. The more they saw the videos, the better the results were, with marked decrease in syllables stuttered.

Patients reported that their own perceptions that video self-modelling of VSM helps in personal and professional situations. VSM is a technique often used by sportsperson to improve upon their skills and perform better and this is the same principle on which the latest study is based.

Harasym said that the success of VSM for treatment of stuttering has given them some really useful information that they are now applying to their clinical practice and will help with designing followup studies as well.

“Video self-modelling is an exciting opportunity to further improve the long-term support of our clients’ fluency outside the confines of the clinic”, said ISTAR executive director Deryk Beal.

Tim Sesink, who suffered from stuttering, said that his fluency has greatly improved since coming to ISTAR. Sesink says he has bumpy moments when tired, stressed or surrounded by lots of people. He sees VSM as an important tool to maintain his forward momentum.

“My speech isn’t perfect. There are still many times when I stutter, but I’ve become okay with it and have realized that it’s part of my experience,” he said. “Thanks to ISTAR, I’ve learned to manage it much better and communicate my thoughts in a clear way.”

This is for the first time that VSM is being used as another treatment approach for stuttering with adults. Results from a recent pilot study showed VSM helped reduce stuttering frequency in clients who had experienced relapse after therapy.

Just like any behaviour change, such as exercising or starting a new diet regime, relapse can be a concern with stuttering, said study co-author Marilyn Langevin, ISTAR’s director of research. VSM is a tool that can help manage those relapses and build confidence along the way.

“It’s hard to keep the motivation going, and video self-modelling helps clients see themselves perform the behaviour in a very confident, successful way,” said Langevin. “It builds their belief and their ability to do it and helps with motivation.”

Findings of the study have been published in the Journal of Fluency Disorders.