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People who stutter find support with early intervention program

People who stutter find support with early intervention program

Sixteen-year-old Mattie Doolittle has something she wants people to know about stuttering.

"It's not a joke. I'm not trying to be goofy. This is the way I talk," she said.

When Mattie was six years old she began speech therapy to learn ways to reduce her stuttering, or "disfluencies."

She explained a few of them, "Easy onsets [into words], slow beginnings or pausing, rethinking it and then finishing it."

"The exact cause is unknown at this time. However, there are recent research studies that show it's leaning toward genetics and neuro-physiology as causes," said Hanna Lamb.

Lamb is a speech therapist at Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola. She and Mattie have been working together for two years.

"Mattie is so courageous and she blows me away all the time," smiled Lamb.

They do speech exercises in clinic together and venture out for "field trips" around the Sacred Heart campus.

"We're able to order food and practice our strategies and then we want our patients to be able to use these strategies in an everyday environment," explained Lamb.

She said if you find yourself in a conversation with someone who stutters there are ways to help give them confidence and assurance if they get "stuck" or frustrated trying to talk with you.

"Want you to wait for me to finish my thought. If you can, please don't interrupt me," Lamb detailed from the point of view from a person who struggles with stuttering.

Lamb said patience and active listening also encourage people with speaking problems to persevere.

"The best things to do and what we always encourage is to maintain that natural eye contact," Lamb said.

People who stutter can feel isolated, withdraw from social situations and often have high anxiety levels. Mattie has had all of those happen to her.

"Don't laugh at it, or mock it or mock the person saying it in general cause that will be petrifying to them and make them freeze and make them not want to say anymore," Doolittle said.

As she's matured, Mattie said she's learned ways to cope with challenges related to her stuttering.

"Singing makes you feel almost normal cause you don't stutter doing it for most people and it helps you express emotions. Helps you feel free," she smiled.

Doolittle has set a personal goal of being able to read a chapter out of a book out loud without stuttering. So far, she's made it through a long paragraph without problems.

She's confident she'll make it using her own best advice. "Stop, calm down, take a breath or two and then try it again," grinned Doolittle.