Stuttering study: volunteers wanted

BE HEARD: Volunteers aged seven and older are wanted for a study into stuttering.VOLUNTEERS are needed for ’s biggest-ever gene study into stuttering.

Researchers are calling for people with a stutter, or who have experienced stuttering, to take partin the landmark Genetics of Stuttering study.

Study participant, Perth grandfather of four Geoff Martin, began stuttering when he was three. Hesaid his stutter affected every aspect of his life.

Geoff, 73, endured more than five decades of trial and error with different techniques in an bid tounderstand the disorder.

Over time, Geoff, whose father also stuttered up until his early teens, learned to hide his stutterand to avoid situations that would require him to speak publicly.

“My stuttering became a real disability, which I quickly learned to hide by choosing not to talk,”hesaid.

“My teachers knew very little about stuttering back then.

“When I spoke, I was bullied and sneered at, so I chose to withdraw and refrain from talkingunless absolutely necessary.”

Then in 2000, at age 56, Geoff discovered a program that urges participants to confront theirstutter, rather than avoid it, and better manage their stutter with improved breathing techniques.

By focusing on breathing methods, building his confidence, and enrolling in Toastmasters (anorganisation dedicated to improving public speaking), Geoff’s speech improved significantly.

“Eventually, I chose to face my fears head-on and to accept many challenges, such as acting asthe best man at a friend’s wedding,” he said.

Now, 17 years later, Geoff speaks with very little hesitation and almost fluent speech. In additionto his busy schedule serving as a board member for four organisations, he takes time to coachothers who stutter.

Three thousand n volunteers with an experience of stuttering (past or present) areneeded for the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence for Speech and Language’s Genetics ofStuttering Study, which aims to pinpoint the genes that predispose individuals to stuttering.

It is hoped this will open the door for new treatment opportunities.

The Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research,QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Griffith University and the University of Melbourneare co-ordinating the n arm of this international study, which involves 10 investigators ateight sites in , the UK and The Netherlands. Recruitment closes December 2019.

Co-chief study investigator Angela Morgan, from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, saidanyone aged seven and over with a history of stuttering can volunteer for the free study.

“Volunteers simply complete a 10-minute online survey and record a short sample of theirspeech,”Professor Morgan said.

“Those who qualify will be invited to provide a saliva sample for DNA analysis, to enableresearchers to unravel the genes that predispose people to stuttering.

“Study participants will be making a genuine contribution to solving this disorder.”

Stuttering is a disability that affects normal verbal fluency and verbal communication – particularlythe rhythm or flow of speech. Although the exact cause is unknown, genetics has been found toplay a role, and a number of genetic mutations have been identified to date.

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