As children who stutter grow into adults, they often experience situations where their stutter becomes associated with fear, shame and anxiety. The person who stutters is not aware of most of these associations that lead to negative thought patterns, which in turn trigger emotional responses and unhelpful behaviours like avoidance. In order to break this cycle, people who stutter need to become aware of both their overt and covert stuttering behaviours and to be ready to change habits, including unhelpful thought patterns.
As we know, any change of habit requires continuous practice. This commitment is usually easy to achieve in direct therapy sessions but more difficult to uphold outside the clinic and in the maintenance phase after the treatment has finished.
Tracking progress on a daily basis
Changing ingrained habits is not a linear process. There will be days when we feel we are not making progress at all or worry that we have relapsed. This is not necessarily true if we only rely on our subjective perception of reality, which might not register our constant progress. In the same way that we do not see how our child grows from day to day, it is difficult to see how far we have come with our speech without an objective measure.
And even if we had a momentary relapse, that does not necessarily mean that our overall progress is impeded. Similar to the stock market, the overall trend (i.e. progress) may be going up. See Figure 1.
We thought of a technical solution that would enable people who stutter to appreciate their progress objectively and built a device called BeneTalk that monitors speech and breathing patterns. To date, there is not enough research on stuttering treatment with devices, which is why we work as a multidisciplinary team to increase our knowledge about factors that aid communication and thus improve people's lives.
- Provide objective speech history tracking over time
- Remind the user to be ‘proactive’ in their speaking habits rather than ‘reactive’ (i.e. only use techniques whenever they are needed)
We believe that adopting BeneTalk’s proactive solution will make relapses less frequent, and will promote healthy communication faster.
In the 21st century, information and technology can help us to improve our quality of life beyond our physiological barriers. Objective data and tracking our speech will make us more confident and help us to achieve our goals.