Why HCRI Stuttering Therapy Produces More Effective Outcomes

Message from HCRI Founder Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D.

One of our fundamental goals at Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI) is to create reliable, effective stuttering therapy. This means that we search for treatment protocols that work well across the spectrum of stuttering types, client personalities and learning styles.

The innovations in stuttering therapy that we create at HCRI — the detailed, systematic definition and use of fluency targets in stuttering treatment, coupled with scientifically based principles of learning, and electronic monitoring of targets — have enabled us to lead the way toward more effective help for persons who stutter.

At every step we have examined, explored and improved the focus and results of our treatment programs. We see our stuttering therapy as a replicable technology that is administered by clinical specialists who have precise knowledge of how fluency targets are acquired, integrated and transferred into everyday life.

In fact, there are two different technologies represented in our new Hollins Fluency Program: Advanced Speech Reconstruction for Stuttering. The electronic technologies are easy to visualize and understand. Here we are talking about the signal processing hardware that we invent, and the use of computers to present information and evaluate client responses during the therapy process. These advances allow us to improve the objectivity and reliability of therapy.

There is another class of technology involved at the heart of our therapy — behavioral technology. We refer here to the range of motor, emotional and cognitive behaviors that must be defined, their organization understood, and how this information can be employed correctly within the therapeutic process to foster the acquisition and retention of fluent speech. There are many different factors that must be taken into account.  For purposes of this article, I shall focus on only one such factor. This example will indicate the level of subtlety that is relevant in the development of our therapy.

At a basic level, we have identified the syllable as the fundamental working unit within therapy. However, within the formation of syllables, there are multiple behavior details that must be established correctly — alone and in combination with other behavior details occurring within the syllable. Our targets operate at this level to give motor integrity to the production of syllables. In addition, recognize that there 40 basic sounds in our language, hundreds of syllables, and tens of thousands of words. Beyond that there are hundreds of thousands of different phrases and sentences that we can produce.

To improve client learning of targets, we have studied the frequency with which syllables and words occur in our language. We have taken advantage of the natural use of syllables and words to structure the learning sequences that occur within our therapy in a manner that uses nature to assist us in reconstructing speech. However, there is more progress to be made. The more closely our training syllables in therapy approximate the syllables used in a person’s active vocabulary, the more nature assists the process.

There is insufficient space here to elaborate the very important role that behavioral analysis plays in advancing fluent speech within our program. It is clear, however, that we are on the right track in identifying details of important human behaviors that enhance the quality of our therapy program.

For more information about Roanoke, Viriginia-based HCRI and the nonprofit center’s stuttering therapy, call 540-265-5650, send an email to admin@stuttering.org  or visit www.stuttering.org .