She sells seashells by the seashore. 
Pacific speech-language pathology (SLP) students used phrases like this popular tongue twister to help them research stuttering.

Michael Susca, PhD, CCC-SLP, BRS-FD, associate professor of speech-language pathology, along with Ashley Choi ’18, Katrina Vu ’18 and Matthew Webster ’18 presented the poster “Differential Effects of Time Pressure Experienced by People Who Stutter” at the 2018 California Speech-Language-Hearing Association Convention and Exhibition held March 22-25, in Sacramento.

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Their study aimed to explore if and how time pressure affects people who stutter in comparison to individuals who are normally fluent. In this study, time pressure was defined as a feeling of stress due to a reduction of available time to accomplish a familiar task.

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, “Stuttering affects the fluency of speech [and] is characterized by disruptions in the production of speech sounds.” Vu added, “It is classified as a communication disorder that is characterized by a break in the flow of speech through repetitions, prolongations and tense pauses.”

Out of 45 participants, 35 were male and 10 were female. According to the Stuttering Foundation, “Stuttering affects four times as many males as females.”

For this study, they had individuals who stutter, as well as normally fluent individuals, read aloud a series of tongue twisters and semantically anomalous sentences. For example, individuals read the semantically anomalous sentence, “Give the jello a dog and a dock to the julep.” Tongue twisters included, “Perspicacious Polly Perkins purchased Peter’s product and peddled pickles to produce a pretty profit.”

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Adding the element of time pressure was a key component of the study. “The reduction of allotted time was made apparent to the individual via an on-screen timer,” said Webster. “Once the time was up, the sentence would disappear.”

For this project, the SLP students collaborated with students from Pacific’s School of Engineering and Computer Science. Developing the software required extensive trial and error. “The time sensitive audio recording aspect of the study made it difficult to design,” Webster explained.

Through their research they found that people who stutter not only experience time pressure, they also feel anxiety and loss of control when time constraints are added.

“In the study, the inclusion of a timer and the different imposed time constraints on the readings had an impact on the reading experiences of the participants,” Choi said. “There were statistically significant differences found between the rating statements and the different levels of imposed time constraints.  We are still in the process of comparing the qualitative experience of those who stutter and those who are normally fluent, but we did find that individuals who stutter experienced time pressure differently than normally fluent people.”

Dr. Susca also presented “Time Pressure Effects on People Who Do and Do Not Stutter,” co-authored by Choi, Vu and Webster, at the 2018 Joint World Congress held July 13-16, in Hiroshima, Japan.


By Anne Marie H. Bergthold
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