For most people, talking is a routine part of the day that doesn't require much thought. From answering questions in class to hanging out with friends, speech is nearly effortless. But for 1 percent of the world’s population, this isn't the case.
Approximately 70 million people worldwide, including 3 million Americans, have a stutter that disrupts their speech patterns and makes communication difficult. This difficulty can lead to anxiety in social situations.
Ph.D. student Scott Van Buren describes his stutter as a frustrating barrier to communication, especially when talking with strangers, trying to place orders at a restaurant or experiencing an unfamiliar situation.
“It’s a very weird feeling that can be difficult to explain to people,” Van Buren said. “It’s like this moment where you know what you want to say, it’s in your head and you can feel it. You know you want to say it, but you can’t get the word out.”
Van Buren worked with speech pathologists to develop strategies to help him deal with his stutter and minimize anxiety. Van Buren has also received help through a program run by Lisa Domby in the Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences at the UNC School of Medicine. The program pairs people like Van Buren with graduate students who study speech disorders.