New Support Available For Those Who Stutter

Alexandria Smith, Content Manager

Students and faculty aim to extend support to those affected by stuttering through a campus support group.

Support is often hard to find for those affected by a stutter-based fluency disorder. Only one percent of people within the U.S. or approximately three million people stutter, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association – and there are only 150 recognized specialists in the U.S.

This greatly affects clients’ access to therapy and support, said fluency specialist and chair of the speech language pathology department Dr. Glen Tellis.  This is particularly true in Northeastern Pennsylvania, Tellis said.

“There are former support groups like the National Stuttering Association, a self-help group for people who stutter,” said Tellis. “They have chapters and charters that they read out before the meeting. I think the closest may be in Harrisburg. I know Pitt has one, and Pittsburgh has one, and Philadelphia. But there’s nothing in the Northeast. So we’ve got clients in adulthood and adolescence and some people who stutter – I don’t stutter – but there are many people who stutter who may want support. They may think that the only people who ever stutter. They had never seen or met someone who stuttered because the incidence is so small.”

This was the case with sophomore speech-language pathology major Terrence Murgallis. Murgallis is one of two founders of the support group and shared in an article in The Dallas Post that he had never met another person with a stutter before going to college. He began the support group with the aid of fellow sophomore speech-language pathology major Marybeth Rissinger and speech-language graduate student Midori Rodriguez to better expose people to the issue in a non-imposing, non-technical setting.

“What our premise has been as a group, we didn’t want to have a formalized charter,” said Tellis. “They wanted to keep it more fluid and so it’s only a group for people who stutter. So if I’m invited by them – even though my specialty is stuttering – we don’t need to do therapy in there. It’s their call what their agenda is. A lot of them want to meet somebody else that stutters and say, ‘Hey, listen, that was crazy. ‘ I don’t have to use my techniques. If I want to, I can. But I’m in a group with other people who stutter.”

An informal setting for people to gather and discuss their feelings toward their stuttering or even talk about their week with people who can  understand their condition is comforting, especially to Murgallis.

“We talk about our struggles, what’s been bothering us, some positive things during our week, everything like that. Then we just talk after that. It’s a safe environment. You don’t have to worry about trying to hide it. You can just be yourself and talk how you talk with your closest friends or your family and not feel like you have to hide your stuttering.”

The group is looking to expand  membership to anyone with a stutter within the community. Rodriguez has gone to numerous  high schools, rehab clinics and universities to promote the group and the benefits that it may offer to students and adults who may want to get together to talk with others who stutter.

The members hope to eventually create a Facebook page to connect to even more people in the community. Meetings are held every first and third Wednesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. in room 212 of John J. Passan Hall.

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