UVM student and professor conquer stuttering together - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

UVM student and professor conquer stuttering together

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There are some things most people wouldn't think twice about, but 23-year-old Ben Manning does.

"Even ordering food at a restaurant," said Manning

Born and raised in Jericho, Manning says he began to stutter around the age of 5. While he tried different kinds of therapy throughout his life, he says his stuttering got worse in college.

"You feel isolated," he said

Manning is now working toward his master's in speech pathology at the University of Vermont. But he says his speech still gets worse in new or unfamiliar situations, such as giving a presentation in front of an entire class or talking in front of a camera.

But Manning says he found refuge in running. An All-American track star in college, Manning says his stutter almost goes away completely while he's engaged in any kind of sports.

"I'm not focused on the speaking, I'm focused on the physical activity," said Manning.

But this UVM student didn't have to travel far to learn more about his stuttering. It turns out one of the world's most renowned experts was in his backyard. Barry Guitar is a UVM professor of communication sciences and disorders, published author and a stutter research pioneer who knows his subject matter all too well.

You can find Manning in the third row of Guitar's class, not shying away from raising his hand.

Guitar says around 5 percent of children worldwide stutter. About 80 percent of them will outgrow it by the time they reach adulthood, but he says it takes a lot of hard work to overcome.

"There's this reaction to it. Like I can't get this word out, I can't even say my name. And then there's tremendous frustration, so there's this emotional learning that goes on," said Guitar.

Guitar says a person who stutters has a constant competition going on in their brain. The right side, which is responsible for things like creativity, is robust. The left side, the speech side, is underdeveloped. That brain development also causes problems with motor skills. People who stutter struggle to form certain sounds with their mouths, unless of course, they are singing, whispering or putting on an accent.

"It's almost as if the triggers are in the way you form words with your mouth. And if you're putting on an accent, you know if I were to talk like this it turns out I am putting my mouth in very different places then I would usually do," said Guitar.

Guitar says now his stuttering does not interrupt the normal flow of conversation. He says part of that is because after a lifetime of struggle, he's finally comfortable in his own skin. Working to minimize the social anxiety that accompanies stuttering is key.

Manning is working on his speech surrounded by others just like him. He found a support group originally started by his professor and mentor Guitar that has just paired up with the National Stuttering Association.

"We'd really like to connect with more people who stutter because there are about 6,000 here in Vermont and I say I've met about 100 so we're wondering where they are," said Danra Kazenski of the National Stuttering Association.

There are support groups for children, teens, adults and even parents.

And Manning is now a mentor helping others to find their stride.

If you or someone you know is struggling with stuttering, click here for a list of support groups.

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