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'Stammering: Advice for all ages' by Renée Byrne and Louise Wright

Angela Munday | 01.12.2008

Book review by Angela Munday. Book published 2008, Sheldon Press.

Cover of 'Stammering: Advice for all ages''Stammering: Advice for all ages' is a concise and complete introductory guide to the ins and outs of stammering "written for everyone who stammers, and for parents, teachers, friends and all those concerned with, or interested in, this subject."

As a stammering parent of pre-school children, I was eager to see if this advice book was indeed relevant to all age groups. It did everything it said on the tin and more, beginning with an explanation of stammering in its very early stages and then continuing to more established stammering in childhood, young adulthood and beyond. The chapters offer excellent, down-to-earth advice and are peppered with quotes from people of all ages. A concluding inspirational section comprises thoughts written by children, teenagers and adults who stammer. I particularly liked the pieces by older people such as Paul, aged 68, who writes the book's final upbeat line "it's never too late".

I found the chapters easy to read and understand, as they are written using simple, jargon free language, follow each other in a logical (as well as chronological) order and can be read independently, making the book great to dip into. Links to other sections are clearly signposted and each chapter concludes with a short bullet-pointed summary.

'The early stages' section relays the important message that early stammering is not the same as established stammering. Good practical advice is offered such as prompt referral to a speech and language therapist, avoiding time pressure and looking at factors affecting fluency, all crucial information for anxious parents. The paragraph addressed to parents who stammer "be reassured that children do not learn stammering from others" had personal significance for me.

The book continues with valuable advice to assist children with an established stammer. In line with the rest of the book, practical suggestions are given to help children to tackle teasing, parents to build self-confidence and teachers to support pupils. Other topics include speech modification, avoidance reduction, therapy aims and techniques, and group therapy.

The young adult chapter is written specifically for teenagers/young people to read but is useful for others too. It deals with age-specific issues like the move to secondary school, university or workplace and feelings linked to the possibility of long term stammering, as well as linking in to other chapters.

Boxed sections and 'icebergs' help the adult reader to assess their stammer and associated physical and psychological behaviour, and to look at the link between thoughts, feelings and behaviours. The mechanics of speech production and importance of secondary behaviours like avoidance add to a greater understanding of stammering.

The different therapies are demystified - all based on either a 'stammer more easily' or a 'speak more fluently' approach. Why individuals might seek speech therapy and what factors affect progress are covered. Direction of therapy is also broached; for example if anxiety is a key issue, then this might need working on more than fluency - an obvious but perhaps overlooked consideration. Information about the wide variety of ways to seek outside help and 'self-help' is given - including tips and exercises, therapy, groups, speaking circles/clubs, assertiveness, counselling, relaxation and electronic aids. I found myself vigorously nodding my head in agreement that developing excellent social skills can "help you to communicate more effectively - perhaps to a level that is better than your fluent colleagues and friends."

I would recommend this wonderful little book to anyone needing a first point of reference to understand stammering better. The length of the book, only 135 pages, does leave the reader wanting to find out more about areas of particular interest - the useful addresses and further reading however should point people in the right direction.

From the Winter 2008 issue of 'Speaking Out', page 18