August 4, 2021

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Recommendations to improve communication of people with stuttering when using masks


Dr. Carlo stated that this scenario is especially problematic in an emergency situation (health or safety need), which can have serious consequences.

photo: Cybernews

SAN JUAN – With the purpose of promoting effective communication in the community with stuttering in Puerto Rico and in the face of the challenges they face due to the use of the mask by Covid-19, the Health Clinics of the School of Health Professions (CLISEC) of the Speech-Language Pathology Program of the Medical Sciences Campus (RCM) of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), provide a series of recommendations to improve communication.

“The forced use of masks can make it even more difficult for people with stuttering to communicate. People who stutter often experience blocks and repetitions in their speech. Face covering contributes to misunderstandings, especially when the only cue the listener has is seeing the speaker’s face. Disruptions in speech can be misinterpreted, lead to the person being ignored or even their behavior considered offensive ”, explained this Tuesday Dr. Edna Carlo, Director of the RCM Speech-Language Pathology Program.

Dr. Carlo stated that this scenario is especially problematic in an emergency situation (health or safety need), which can have serious consequences. “We must all be aware of these circumstances, but it is especially relevant to teachers, medical and emergency management personnel, and security personnel,” he noted in written statements.

In light of the current and long-term public health need for mask use, the RCM PHL Program offers the following tips to promote effective communication in children and adults who stutter.

If you stutter

Tell others. The person who stutters can choose to verbally indicate this at the beginning of a conversation or to show an identification card like the one published by the American Stuttering Foundation. This will let people know that you need more time to speak and can reduce pressure a bit by anticipating speech difficulties.

Practicing at home or with people close to you can give you more confidence in challenging situations, such as an emergency call or participation in virtual classes.

Get advice on the accommodations and modifications available for academic and employment contexts so that you can continue to do your regular job and duties.

You can use a clear mask. By doing this, others can more easily see that you are experiencing a blockage.

Consult your speech-language pathologist.

Participate in support networks and learn from other people with stuttering about the strategies that have helped them in these circumstances. There are many available on social media.

In turn, it is possible to help people who stutter by following the following recommendations:

Be patient. Give the person a chance to speak and don’t try to finish what you say or speak for them.

Be kind. Recognize that we are all experiencing stressful times.

Try to remain understanding of those who require the extra effort to speak.

If you don’t understand, ask for clarification. Consider accepting another form of communication, such as reading a written message. An alternative is to communicate using a text-to-speech application, which is free of charge and is available for all types of smart phones.

Consider reviewing your service policies, such as allowing a chaperone to communicate key information.

For more information, you can contact the Speech-Language Pathology Program by writing to: [email protected] [email protected] or by calling 787-758-2525, Ext. 4401 (Tuesday and Thursday).



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