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Practical Thoughts Blog

Is there an app that can count disfluencies for me?

Is there an app that can count disfluencies for me?

Oh, wouldn't it be wonderful if there were a system that could automatically count disfluencies for us! Unfortunately, as good as automatic speech recognition systems have become, they still can't handle disfluent speech very well. Stuttering, in particular, messes up the mathematical models that automatic speech recognition systems use to determine word onsets and offsets. So, as of yet, there aren't any systems that do this for us. (I have been involved in a project for many years working on this, but we're not there yet.)

In any case, the most important thing to remember when doing an assessment of speech fluency is that the frequency of stuttering is really not the most valuable measure you might make. Yes, you can spend a lot of time on it, but it doesn't tell you much about whether the individual is likely to need intervention.

For the school-age child who stutters, the real question for your evaluation is whether and how the stuttering is affecting his lifehis reactions to himself, his communication ability, and his participation in school. We want to assess the adverse impact of stuttering because the qualification for therapy will be based on impact rather than on percent syllables stuttered or severity. (Reason: a child can stutter severely yet still not experience negative impact and therefore not need therapyOR, a child may not stutter all that much but be devastated by it and not be able to participate fully in social or educational opportunities.)

So, I would be focused on those social/educational issues rather than the frequency count. One way to do that is with the Overall Assessment of the Speaker’s Experience of Stuttering (OASES; Yaruss & Quesal, 2016). The OASES is designed to assess the entirety of the stuttering disorder—from the perspecrive of the speaker. Thus, it measure the speaker’s perceptions of his stuttering behavior; his affective, behavioral, and cognitive reactions to stuttering; the difficulties he has with functional communication in key situation, such as at home, at school, or in social interaction; and the impact of stuttering on quality of life.

I use the OASES throughout the therapy process:

  • At the diagnostic evaluation, to help me qualify children for therapy based on adverse impact
  • When writing goals, to help me make sure that I am focusing on the child’s needs in therapy
  • In therapy, I go through it with the child to open up discussions about his reactions to stuttering
  • Throughout therapy, to help me ensure that I am making progress
  • At dismissal, to demonstrate the reduction in the adverse impact of stuttering on the child’s life

Thus, I view the OASES not only as a diagnostic tool, but also as a therapy tool. Even though it doesn’t count disfluencies, it does help me with what really matters: the ways that stuttering affects the child’s life.

Learn more about the OASES by clicking here.