18th January 2022
Can podcasts be a source of self-help for people who stammer? That's what guest writer Lauren Dignazio, a speech & language pathology student based in the U.S., wanted to find out. Here she tells us all about her research.
As someone who doesn't stammer, or stutter, it is difficult to fully immerse oneself into the shoes of a person who does. Their thoughts, feelings and experiences are all personal and unique. As an aspiring speech & language pathologist, I try my best to understand this, and have actively been doing my part to learn about these thoughts, feelings and experiences.
With the help of my professor and mentor Dr. Erik X. Raj, at Monmouth University in New Jersey USA, not only have I been able to expand my knowledge on stuttering, in general I have also been able to learn about how some people who stutter benefit from different kinds of self-help experiences.
It is widely-known that some people who stutter report positive experiences when they attend stuttering conferences or go to self-help group meetings. As technology continues to advance, a new version of self-help has developed: the phenomena of podcasts.
Podcasts have really grown in popularity over the years. In the U.S. alone, I found out that an estimated 144 million people aged 12 and above have listened to a podcast within the past year. Podcasts allow for rich and honest stories to be told verbally, and perhaps these audio-based stories add to the mass appeal.
Podcasts allow for rich and honest stories to be told verbally, and perhaps these audio-based stories add to the mass appeal.
There are lots of stuttering-related podcasts out there, with the most popular ones including Stuttering Is Cool, StutterTalk, Women Who Stutter and, most recently, STAMMA's Around The Block. Collectively, these podcasts alone have recorded over 1,000 episodes between them, which are all freely available to stream and/or download.
Little research has been conducted to fully see the potential that podcasts might provide to people who stammer, so I was really interested to find out for myself. Within Dr. Raj's Fluency Disorders Research Lab at the University, I did my own qualitative research to find out if listening to podcasts could be an appropriate means of self-help support for people who stutter.
For my research, there were two questions I wanted to ask:
- What are the different reasons people who stutter choose to listen to stuttering-related podcasts?; and
- How do people who stutter describe their experiences of listening to them?
To answer these, I created a survey and posted it on the Stuttering Is Cool Facebook page, with approval from its founder Daniele Rossi. Thirty three people took part, all of whom were people who stutter, and they answered the open-ended questions I set them.
...common themes were that the podcasts gave people a feeling of camaraderie as well as a sense of empowerment.
After carefully analysing the data collected, I found common responses. People said they listened to stuttering podcasts to gain information, some for perspective. One participant said, "I'm curious to listen to experiences of other people who stutter; how do they live with their stutter (beyond speech therapy and content related to fluency)?"
Other common themes were that the podcasts gave people a feeling of camaraderie as well as a sense of empowerment. One person said, "They've helped me enter the day with a position of more acceptance of my stutter, which at times has helped motivate me to take chances I may not have otherwise taken."
- See Connect Online for a list of stammering podcasts & online communities
From my research, I have found that people who stutter benefit from listening to stuttering-related podcasts; hearing the stories and experiences of others who stutter and realising they're not alone. These direct quotes speak volumes as to the type of support podcasts can provide.
To back this up, STAMMA shared some of the feedback they received when their podcast debuted last year. One person said, "As a teenager who stammers and who doesn't know anyone else who does, it's so freeing and cathartic to hear someone talking about similar things that I've gone through... I've wanted to start a podcast for a very long time but I've been afraid to because I thought no one would listen to someone who stammers, but you guys have shown me how wrong I am."
I hope that after reading this, people who stutter, as well as self-help group leaders, speech pathologists and speech & language therapists, listen to stuttering-related podcasts at least once or share them with their service users or members. Most people find out about these podcasts through word of mouth, so it is my hope that this article can serve as a digital mouth to happily shout about how important they are.
If you are interested in learning more about this specific research study, the published findings can be purchased from the ASHA website (the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association). Additionally, if you would like to learn more about Dr. Raj's research, additional information can be found on his website, erikxraj.com.
To see the range of support options available, see Get Support. Our Connect Online page lists online groups, pages and podcasts, and our Local Groups page has a list of self-help groups in the UK. Speaking of conferences, we've got our very own STAMMAFest event coming up in August — you don't want to miss that.
(Main photos by Siddharth Bhogra and Henry Be on Unsplash)