Speech therapy

The American Institute for Stuttering provides effective, affordable stuttering therapy services for kids, teens and adults throughout the world. (Bryce Moore/Submitted)

American Institute for Stuttering opens location in Santa Monica

According to the National Institute of Health, approximately 3 million people in the United States stutter. For those facing this neurological disorder, treatment and coping mechanisms can be difficult to come by with roughly 150 speech therapists certified to treat it across the country.

This year, California residents gained additional resources to address a malady that can isolate and limit opportunities for those suffering from it. On Sept. 30, the American Institute for Stuttering celebrated the grand opening of its offices in Santa Monica. This is the third location for the Institute and its first in the West.

When asked why the Institute chose Santa Monica, Gregory Scott, speech-language pathologist and clinic director for the new location, cited the welcoming nature of the city which is incorporated into treatment. 

“I give props to Santa Monica for being a famously welcoming city and one of the most walkable places in Los Angeles,” Scott said. “It's a perfect, gentle place to bring our clients who are working on facing their fears.” 

Part of the Institute's program is to take clients out into the community and encourage them to talk with passersby, business staff and others they encounter throughout Santa Monica.

In addition to engaging the community, the Institute offers clients counseling sessions on-site or online. 

Scott mentioned that these sessions are intended to provide clients with the tools to live with their stuttering-not to mask it. He also noted that often even as clients are finding success in dealing with the disorder, they return to speak with pathologists as a means of maintaining and gauging their progress.

The American Institute for Stuttering offers empowerment for its clients rather than recommending ways to hide the neurological disorder. 

“For the vast majority of people who stutter, it’s something they were born with,” Scott said. “It’s not a mistake. It’s just how they talk. It’s their natural, authentic voice and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

Overcoming the stigma of stuttering and the accompanying reluctance for those suffering from the disorder to engage in social situations is at the heart of treatment at the Institute. Often as people encounter negative reactions to their stuttering out in the community, they withdraw from situations that would require them to talk, which can be detrimental to relationships and career advancement.

“I’ve had clients who, out of sheer desperation, legally changed their names to something easier to say,” Scott said. “Of course, because stuttering is a neurological condition, they end up stuttering on their new name, which leads to shame, embarrassment and frustration.”

To combat the isolating effects of stuttering, the Institute also promotes a variety of ways for its clients to meet and engage with others dealing with the disorder. From online meet-ups to a speaker series which brings experts to talk about the latest research, the Institute tries to demystify stuttering and help its clients find coping mechanisms.  Clients are often paired with mentors who have found success in the program and/or might have similar career or social challenges.

The American Institute for Stuttering’s mission is to “provide universally affordable treatment to persons of all ages.” It also seeks to educate colleagues on the proper methodologies to treat and address stuttering, another thrust of the Institute addressing the inclusivity issue and removing the stigma surrounding stuttering.

Scott notes that while treatment can benefit all, it’s best to address stuttering as soon as it is identified. 

“As children begin stringing together multiple words is when stuttering can emerge,” Scott said. “80% of toddlers who stutter will grow out of it. 20% will persist into adulthood. We recommend parents seek out treatment early on.”

As it assists clients in gaining confidence and removing the stigma, the Institute also guides its clients in effective communication, all changes that will allow greater engagement for patients as they stroll through Santa Monica and are welcomed.

American Institute for Stuttering

1250 S. 6th Street, #203, Santa Monica