Stuttering, or stammering as it is known in the UK, is characterized by a person finding it difficult to speak. A person may experience blocks in speech, a tense face, while repeating words. These are also known as the out features of stuttering.
However, stuttering is much more than just struggling to speak.
It is also about how it makes a person feel from inside – the hidden aspects of stuttering.
A great model developed by famous Speech and Language Pathologist, Joseph Sheehan, is called the Iceberg Theory of Stuttering .
The idea behind this analogy is that the tip of an iceberg is the outward manifestations of stuttering; previously the speech blocks, and the physical difficulties to speak. Below, or 'under the water', are the hidden features. These are the emotions that a person feels, such as fear, anxiety and shame.
The interesting thing about the Iceberg model is that it can be used to understand how stuttering can be different from person to person. Some people have a larger iceberg tip, while others may have a defect 'underneath the water'.
For example, some people may stutter more outwardly, with lots of word repetitions, and hence have a larger iceberg tip. But they may not have many emotional issues and therefore have a smaller surface under the water.
Others are vice versa, with a smaller iceberg tip, and a larger 'underneath the water'.
A person who stutters (or stammers), and professionals who help them can use the Iceberg model to work on specific aspects of their stuttering, which will help them most with their own situation.
For instance, a person with a big ice tip may have little fluency. Therefore, using fluency creating techniques, or stuttering more easily approaches can be helpful in this case.
For other people, who may have a larger 'under the water', cognitive therapies, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) can be helpful in understanding how thoughts about stuttering can create anxiety and helplessness for a person , and learn ways to create more empowering and positive emotions.
The Iceberg model can therefore be used as a broad measure of how much a person is progressing in their individual journey of coping with stuttering.
If a person begins to learn to deal with unhelpful emotions, then this will decrease the size of the iceberg which is below the water. They can then focus on the tip of the iceberg and create more fluency if they need to.
A person who needs to work on creating fluency first (working on the tip of their iceberg) may make progress. However, they still may experience worry and anxiety, in which case they can work on the area 'underneath the water', in their iceberg.