Older people who stutter: Barriers to communication and perceptions of treatment need

Geraldine Bricker-Katz, Michelle Lincoln, Patricia McCabe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Little is known about the experience of stuttering for people over 55 years of age. Recent research has established that the same types of stuttering behaviours, cognitions, and emotional consequences experienced during young adulthood persist into older age.Aims: The aims were to investigate perceptions of limitations to activity and participation in a group of older people who stuttered into adulthood. A further aim was to find out their perceptions about treatment.Methods & Procedures: This was a qualitative study involving eleven participants, eight males and three females over 55 years of age (mean age = 70.7, standard deviation = 9.13 years, range = 57.283.8 years) who self-reported stuttering into adulthood. Participants were randomly assigned to two focus groups for the discussion of topic questions posed by a moderator. The discussion was video- and audio-recorded, transcribed, and analysed using a comparative thematic analysis to derive emergent themes in relation to the topic questions.Outcomes & Results: Stuttering can impact on the lives of older people in a similar way to younger people who stutter. Participants who continued to work felt more limited by their stuttering because work involved unpredictable speaking situations with unfamiliar people. Others who had retired experienced some relief from these limitations because they were no longer required to communicate in a work context. The acceptance of stuttering was a theme expressed by some participants, and acceptance diminished the limitations because these older people were less fearful of the consequences of their stuttering. However, others remained constrained by the impact of stuttering on their communication and struggled with a fear of speaking and a fear of negative evaluation by others. They applied learnt and self-devised techniques to assist their speech and felt that if fear of speaking was removed and their self-confidence increased, communication might be better. They would like effective, individual, and short-term treatment with speechlanguage pathologists who are knowledgeable about stuttering and sensitive to their emotional needs.Conclusions & Implications: Older people who stutter experienced limitations to participation because of their stuttering and there are implications for their future ability to remain independent and connected to relevant people and services. Further investigation of these limitations and research into effective intervention is indicated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-30
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Language and Communication Disorders
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010
Externally publishedYes


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