2003 IFA Congress: Montreal, Canada

Model of Speech Fluency Formation in Stuttering Teenagers and Adults

Elena Rau, and Elena Kazbanova
Moscow State Pedagogical University, 88, Prospect Vernadskogo, Moscow, Russia


The purpose of this research was to study the perception and reproduction of non- speech and speech tempo and rhythm in adults and adolescents who stutter. Twenty two stuttering and 20 normally speaking patients took part in the research.. The implications of the findings for the rehabilitation of speech fluency in the case of stuttering with complex training and development of rate and rhythm capability are discussed.

  1. Introduction
It has been noted by many specialists in the field of stuttering (Beliakova & Diakova, 1998; Freshels, 1931; Netkachev, 1913; Sikorski, 1889) that the irregularities of speech rate and rhythm in stuttering are due to disturbances in the respiratory, vocal and articulation muscular system. It is also known that stuttering tends to occur at moments of communicative importance. The notion of speech fluency is related to the intonation (expressiveness) of speech as a whole, whereby tempo- rhythmical composition has special significance. These elements are considerably disturbed by stuttering, and this influences the processes of realization not only of the emotional, but also the sense components of speech.

Some authors suggest that the disturbances of speech rate and rhythm of stuttering are associated with a general arrhythmia in people who stutter, and that this is related to peculiarities of interactions of the right and left cerebral hemispheres (Visel, 1997). According to the research findings of a number of authors (Lokhov, 1994; Pavalaki, 1996; Sikorski, 1889; Slanova, 2001; Zhinkin, 1968; and others), recovery of speech fluency in people who stutter can be achieved through complex training which includes targeted work on the development of coordination of speech rate and rhythm.

According to many known linguists, normal speech rate is achieved by the rapid pronunciation of syllables or words. Zhinkin (1968) showed that that approximately 0.2 second is needed for pronouncing a syllable. Speech rhythm in turn is due to the use of stressed and unstressed syllables and their combinations. Speech fluency is characterized by continuity, and non-ï uency is characterized by the presence of repetition of sounds and parts of words, exclamations, respiratory iterations, absence of pauses, and hesitations, which may be attributed to speech convulsiveness (Bernstein, 1981; Silverman, 1973).

On this basis some researchers (eg. Andronova & Arutun’an, 1984) believe that it is possible to prevent speech convulsiveness and stuttering by changing the person’s habitual speech rate and rhythm. This heightens the control the stuttering person has over his or her own speech and its emotional and semantic components.

There are different approaches to the development of the rhythm-and-rate organization of a stuttering person’s speech. These include by-syllable pronunciation, scanned speech, DAF, synchronization of speech with rhythmical actions, etc. (Andronova & Arutun’an,l984; Sikorski, 1889; and others). Unfortunately the skill of fluent speech can only be mastered with the help of these methods with difficulty, as it is a very complex task to introduce these techniques into the process of the patients’ communication, and simple technical repetition of these models does not establish stable fluent speech. In this regard the search for more effective approaches for establishing correct rliyt/1m-and-rate organization of the speech of people who stutter is on-going.

So, the objectives of this paper are as follows:
  • investigation of the characteristics of perception and reproducing of non-speech and speech tempo and rhythm of stuttering teenagers and adults;
  • discussion of methods for the development of habitual voluntary regulation of rate and rhythm for people who stutter, for the elimination of their speech convulsiveness.

  1. Method
The research consisted of two parts.

The aim of Part I was to study and appraise the characteristics of auditory and visual perception and reproducing of non-speech and motor rate and rhythm in an experimental and a control groups (stuttering and non-stuttering teenagers and adults), namely:

1.1 Precision in reproducing of the rhythmical drawing of the motor try-outs after preliminary reproducing and memorizing of the suggested movements in a set succession (including symmetrical and asymmetrical movements of arms);

1.2 Precision in reproducing of the rhythmical drawing of non-speech sounds, introduced through hearing (tapped out, clapped out, etc.);

1.3 Precision and sequencing of switching from rapid and slow rate in reproducing of the motor sample, set in a definite rhythm.

1.4 Adequacy of perception of musical rate and rhyme and reproduction of the rhyme drawing with the help of motor try-outs for tapping out and clapping out (with singling out of strong and weak portions).

The aim of Part 2 was to study and appraise the characteristics of perception and reproducing of speech tempo and rhythm in the experimental and the control groups, namely:

2.1 Adequacy of voluntary appraisal of one’s owns speech and some other person’s speech after listening to the set sample;

2.2 Adequacy of perception of the rhythmical drawing of a word, connected with different quantity and distribution of stressed and unstressed syllables in the offered words selection;

2.3 Adequacy of perception of the rhythmical basis of the offered verse texts of different rhythmical sizes in comparison;

2.4 Precision in reproducing the rate and the rhythm of a pattern.

2.5 Precision in reproducing the rhythmical basis of Verse texts of different rhythmical types (using of whispering speech in order to exclude a possibility of the stuttering persons’ speech convulsiveness);

There were two groups of subjects: the experimental group and the control group. The experimental group consisted of 22 Russian-speaking persons identified as stuttering; 15 of them were teenagers (10 males and 5 females) of 13-17 years of age, and seven were adults (4 men and 3 women) of 18-40 years of age. The control group consisted of 20 Russian-speaking persons with no identified speech pathology; 12 of them were teenagers (6 males and 6 females) of 13-17 years of age and 8 adults (4 men and 4 women) of 18-40 years of age. The research took place at the sub-faculty of logopaedics of the MPSU. The experimental group was studied once before special training in a 2-month Complex speech rehabilitation program that has been reported by the first author (Raou, 1997; 2000). The control group was also studied once.

The procedure incorporated methods (modified by us) as follows:
  • The scale of development of psychomotorics (Gurevich & Ozeretskiy, 1930)
  • The methods of studying of the sensory functions (Volkova, 2002)
We also used the method of research of speech rhythm elaborated by us. The tasks are outlined in the Results section below.

  1. Results
The results are presented in the following tables (Table 1.1 to Table 2.5) The following abbreviations are used: experimental group, EG; control group, CG. The results are presented in percentage error or percentage correct.


Table 1.1. Precision in reproducing the rhythmical drawing of the motor try-outs


Table 1.2. Precision in reproducing the rhythmical drawing of non-speech sounds, introduced through hearing


Table 1.3. Precision and sequence of switching of rapid and slow rate


Table 1.4. Adequacy of perception of musical rate and rhyme


Table 2.1.1. Adequacy of voluntary appraisal of one ‘s owns speech rate


Table 2.1.2. Adequacy of voluntary appraisal of some other person is speech rate


Table 2.2. Adequacy of perception of the rhythmical drawing of a word


Table 2.3. Adequacy of perception of the rhythmical basis of verse texts


Table 2.4. Precision of voluntary reproduction of the rate and the rhythm of a speech pattern (tatati)


Table 2.5. Precision of reproduction of the rhythmical basis of the verse texts of difierent rhythmical sizes

As it is obvious from the tables, comparing of the results of the experimental and the control groups, the experimental group succeeded with their tasks at a rate of approximately 51%, and the control group at a rate of about 76%.

The data in Tables 1.1 - 1.4, where errors were related to non-speech (motor and musical) rate and rhythm, indicate that the experimental group may have disturbed symmetrical coordination of movement, which may be related to the development of memory for movement These data could be explained by peculiarities of subjects’ emotional condition at the moment of testing and by the presence of a nervous state, such as mental tension, emotional discomfort, constraint leading to instability of memory, and with insufficient concentration on the tasks as presented by the experimenter. Tables 1.3. indicate the difficulties of the experimental group in switching from a rapid rate to a slow one and vice versa, and also in altering the rhythmical drawing and non-return to the initial rate after acceleration. This may be caused by inadequacy of perception of slow and rapid tempo and may be connected with stuttering persons’ feelings of need to speak faster, which is considered typical of stuttering persons as a whole.

Table 1.4 presents the results of perception and reproduction of musical rate and rhythm. The typical error of the experimental group is inadequate allotment of strong and weak emphasis and voluntary alteration of the initial rate. This is possibly connected to the disrhythmia of stuttering.

Table 2.1.1 indicates errors in the experimental group of voluntary appraisal of their own speech. It is possible that stuttering persons have very specific and distorted perception of rate as a whole, as well as appraisalof their own speech. This is probably related to the receiving and transmitting of speech signals through the reverse connection of the speech - motor and the speech - hearing analyzers.

Table 2.1.2 presents data for appraisal of the speech of others and it is obvious that these are similar to the findings for appraisal of own speech, having practically the same percentage scores.

In Tables 2.2 and 2.3, where the results on adequacy of perception of the rhythmical drawing of separate words and verse texts are represented, the experimental group scored more poorly, which can probably be explained by the presence of disrhythmical errors as a whole.

Presence of disrhythmical errors is observed also in reproducing the tempo and the rhythm of the speech pattern (tatatirating) and in reproducing the rhythmical basis of verse texts of different rhythmical types (iambus, trochee, dactyl, etc.).

  1. Discussion
Almost all the indices of non-speech and speech rate and rhythm in the stuttering group are characterized by specific arrhythmia, which presumably reflects discoordination of the processes of perception and reproducing of speech and non-speech information as a whole. This suggests that there should be further research into these processes with stuttering persons at deeper neurophysiological and neuropsychological levels.

The findings support various recommendations for restoration of speech fluency including correction of the various peculiarities of non-speech and speech rate and rhythm. We believe it is possible to suggest the following psycho-pedagogical recommendations. The work on development and correction of speech peculiarities begins with an introductory conversation, in which the person and all members of the group participate. The theme is Rhythm and its importance in a human life.

Then motor exercises take place, using a metronome as an external source of rhythm and a drum as the source of the rhythm for the participant. Non-verbal communicative exercises are added to the motor exercises and their combinations (for example, transfer of the rhythmical drawing with the help of eye contact). The verbal exercises have a communicative character. When produced in combination with the external rhythm the vowels are produced with exaggerated articulation, as are their combinations in different’ syllables. Various emotions, from happiness and joy to melancholy and grief, are expressed. The participants work with verse texts and musical extracts, identifying and analyzing their rhythmical nature (iambus, dactyl, etc.). They learn to recognize and reproduce these rhythms in their own speech and with musical accompaniment. There is improvised use of rhythmical speech during the classes, in different conversational contexts.

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