Stuttering, the most common fluency disorder, is an interruption in the flow of speaking characterized by repetitions (sounds, syllables, words, phrases), sound prolongations, blocks, interjections, and revisions, which may affect the rate and rhythm of speech. These disfluencies may be accompanied by physical tension, negative reactions, secondary behaviors, and avoidance of sounds, words, or speaking situations. Cluttering, another fluency disorder, is characterized by a perceived rapid and/or irregular speech rate, which results in breakdowns in speech clarity and/or fluency.
The Speech and Language Therapist plays a central role in the screening, assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of fluency disorders.
The Speech and Language Therapist role can include
- providing prevention information to individuals and groups known to be at risk for fluency disorders and to individuals working with those at risk;
- educating other professionals about the needs of children with fluency disorders and the role of SLPs in screening, assessing, diagnosing, and managing fluency disorders;
- screening of communication when a fluency disorder is suspected and as part of a comprehensive speech-language evaluation;
- understanding that awareness and concern about stuttering may vary across individuals and cultures and conducting a culturally and linguistically relevant comprehensive assessment of fluency and language;
- referring the patient/client to other professionals to rule out other conditions, determine etiology, and facilitate access to comprehensive services;
- developing intervention plans focused on helping the child achieve fluent speech, providing treatment, documenting progress
- recommending related services when necessary for daily classroom management and treatment;
- counselling individuals with fluency disorders and their families and providing education aimed at preventing further complications related to fluency disorders;
- consulting and collaborating with families, individuals with fluency disorders, other professionals, support personnel, peers, and other invested parties to identify priorities and build consensus on an intervention plan focused on functional outcomes;
- remaining informed of research in the area of fluency disorders and advancing the knowledge base of the nature of the disability, screening, diagnosis, prognostic indicators, assessment, treatment, and service delivery for individuals with fluency disorders;
- advocating for individuals with fluency disorders and their families at the local, state, and national levels.