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Practical Thoughts Blog

Why no "continuous phonation?"

Why no "continuous phonation?"

As many of you know, we have posted several “how to” videos for teaching speech handling strategies to children and adolescents who stutter. These videos complement discussions of speech strategies in our clinical manual, School Age Stuttering Therapy: A Practical Guide. After we posted our video on pausing/phrasing, we received a Facebook request from a SLP for a video highlighting the “continuous phonation” strategy. 

Unfortunately, I had to inform this colleague that we would not be posting a video on that particular strategy. This is because, in my clinical training and experience, continuous phonation is often misunderstood and misused by my students and clients. Specifically, it leads to decreased pausing/phrasing and decreased breath support. I find my students tend to “run out of air” while using continuous phonation. Physiologically, when they attempt to finish speaking with forceful exhalation, this increases their speech tension as they try to communicate on residual air toward the end of their utterances. In other words, continuous phonation (again, in my experience and opinion) has a high occurrence of “backfires!” It simply does not produce the intended result. 

If the goal is to help students ease tension and increase levels of fluency by “smoothing out” their speech, then continuous phonation is not the only game in town. Instead, a healthy balance of light contact/easy onset and appropriate pausing can yield the same (or better) results.  This combination of strategies has the added benefit of sounding and feeling less artificial than continuous phonation. With time and practice, the naturalness that can be obtained increases the likelihood of carryover, among other benefits. 

When selecting strategies for stuttering therapy, it is important to remember that while experiencing increased fluency is great, artificial sounding (and feeling) fluency rarely hits the mark! 

Please let me know if you have follow-up questions. At Stuttering Therapy Resources, we are always happy to help!