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Speech therapy projects show how breathing exercises can help stammers

Tuesday 14th February 2017
How breathing exercises could help to reduce the severity of speech impediments. Image: AH86 via iStock
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Breathing exercises similar to those practised by opera singers before a vocal performance can have significant benefits for people who struggle with speech impediments.

The Daily Mail has published an article looking at some of the projects supported by the British Stammering Association that can help to reduce the severity of stutters and stammers through various breathing techniques.

Research has shown that concentrating on inhaling and exhaling using the chest muscles can calm a person's breathing, subsequently minimising feelings of anxiety, allowing them to get their words out easier.

Speaking to the newspaper, chief executive of the British Stammering Association Norbert Lieckfeldt explained: "People think stammering is triggered by anxiety, but it's caused by differences in the neural pathways. Children may develop anxiety about stammering, but it's the stammer that comes first."

Although not currently used by the NHS, costal breathing is one technique believed to help reduce such symptoms. This technique was pioneered by Lionel Logue, the speech therapist who taught King George VI to control his stammer and involves using the muscles high in the chest.

While there is not yet any formal evidence showing the technique's success, 70 per cent of people who have received this form of therapy for their speech impediment go on to teach the method to other stammer sufferers, which suggests it does indeed have significant benefits for lessening stutter severity.

Initiatives that provide this type of therapy to patients include the Starfish Project, the Michael Palin Centre, the McGuire Programme and the City Lit Programme. The latter focuses on attitudes to speech impediments as well as techniques to reduce symptoms.

With all of this in mind, speech therapists need to make sure that breathing exercises, anxiety support and addressing stigmas surrounding stammers and stutters form a key part of the care that they offer to patients in order to reduce the severity of their speech impediments.

It is thought that around 500,000 people in the UK suffer from such a speech problem, which means these techniques have the potential to transform a significant number of lives.

Written by Martin Lambert

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