Focusing on Stuttering

By Barbara Melendez


TAMPA, Fla. (April 6, 2010) – Thymesia, a young middle school student went from being shy and hardly making eye contact to offering to do a class presentation and reciting the pledge of allegiance over the loud speaker system at her school. The reason behind Thymesia’s shyness was stuttering and the reason behind her transformation was a workshop last year presented by the University of South Florida in collaboration with the National Stuttering Association.


This year, USF’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders will host another outreach event – Youth Day – with the National Stuttering Association for children and teens who stutter and their families, Saturday, May 1 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Marshall Student Center. Different activities will be provided for different age groups:  three- to five-year-olds, six- to nine-year-olds, 10- to 12-year-olds, and teens. Separate sessions will be held for their parents as well. Speech-language pathologists with this specialty are encouraged to attend this day in addition to the day before, on April 30, when there will be a continuing education workshop for them. Registration is required for both events.


Parents can register for Youth Day online at: The registration fee is $10 for parents and children and $15 for speech and language students. A pizza lunch will be served for $3.  Limited scholarships are available for those with financial needs. Speech-language pathologists can register for the CEU workshop online at: Links to registration for both events can also be found at For more information call (813) 974-6190 or email for location and directions.


In Thymesia’s case, the stuttering didn’t go away, but her lack of confidence did and that had everything to do with the work of speech-language pathologists, professionals who treat, counsel and educate all at the same time. They understand stuttering to be a fluency disorder with different contributing factors such as genetics, temperament and home environment, one that responds to a variety of interventions.


“We work on setting up realistic expectations for prognosis and create opportunities for children to establish fluent speech,” said Nathan Maxfield, an assistant professor at USF. “Stuttering doesn’t miraculously disappear, even with the most effective treatment strategies, and despite what some movies may portray,” he said “What does work is helping children who stutter adjust socially and understand they are not alone, especially once they develop a network of support and camaraderie among parents and children with the same issues.”


The workshop, held for the first time last year, has been found to be a powerful agent for change and inspired the organizers to make it an annual event.  Parents were able to share their common experiences and the children were able to relax and be themselves in a welcoming environment. Alexis Maxfield, a speech-language pathologist who attended from Thymesia’s school, Hope Preparatory Academy in Tampa, couldn’t have been more pleased with the results.


“At the workshop, I noticed her opening up, interacting with others – complete strangers – and having fun. The following Monday, Thymesia told her teacher and classmates all about the Saturday workshop and how ‘cool’ it was. She also told her teacher and me that she would like to give a class presentation about her stuttering. Recently I was somewhat surprised and impressed when I heard the principal announce her name before she recited the pledge over the intercom, for all the schools’ staff and students to hear,” she said.


This does not come as a surprise to Nathan Maxfield, her husband.


“Sharing feelings, experiences and getting questions answered does a lot to alleviate the sense of isolation and lack of understanding from people who are sometimes not supportive or worse yet abusive,” he said. “Last year was an inspiring and transformational event and we’re planning to repeat that experience again this year.”



The University of South Florida is one of the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of only 25 public research universities nationwide with very high research activity that is designated as community engaged by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.  USF was awarded $380.4 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2008/2009. The university offers 232 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The USF System has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 47,000 students on institutions/campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.