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School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

Treating Stuttering at South Carolina’s Speech and Hearing Research Center

Stuttering, which is characterized by involuntary stoppages in the forward flow of speech, is a low-incidence disorder affecting approximately 1 percent of the population worldwide. Roughly 5 percent of children will go through a period of stuttering that lasts six months or more, most of whom recover by late childhood — leaving 1 percent with a long-term problem. It impacts all races and ethnicities equally; however, there are four males who stutter for every one female.

Charley Adams
[Photo: Dr. Charley Adams]

Despite the low-incidence rate of this speech disorder, the USC Speech and Hearing Research Center, in the Arnold School of Public Health’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (COMD) at the University of South Carolina, has treated numerous stuttering patients over their 45-year history. Patients and their family members, teachers, speech-language pathologists and physicians find their way to the Center because of its unique expertise and experience on both common and rare communication challenges. These patients are looking for the most experienced and informed clinicians, and they are looking for innovative research and interventions. They are looking for people like clinical assistant professor Dr. Charley Adams.

Dr. Adams first developed his connection with stuttering when he was a doctoral candidate in the COMD department at USC. He was approached to take on a caseload of stuttering patients and teach a graduate course on the topic for a faculty member who was retiring. “That was about 15 years ago, and I’m very fortunate to still be doing both,” he says. “I’ve met so many fascinating and interesting people who stutter and who work with stuttering.”

Dr. Adams can easily list many well-known individuals from history and popular culture who have stuttered — many of whom have spoken publicly about the condition. He points out that building awareness is important because people who stutter have been mocked, teased and bullied for decades. “Some listeners have mistakenly jumped to a variety of inaccurate conclusions when they hear someone stuttering, ranging from ‘you’re stupid’ to ‘you must be lying’ to ‘you don’t know what you’re talking about’,” says Dr. Adams. “Importantly, attitudes are changing and awareness and understanding of stuttering have improved in recent years, and things have really ramped up ever since the film, The King’s Speech, came out in 2010.” There is even an International Stuttering Awareness Day observed each year (October 22).

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