The American Institute for Stuttering (AIS) is opening the doors of a new location in Santa Monica this week. The non-profit, which has been around for 25 years, offers therapy and other support services to people of all ages who struggle with stuttering. The Santa Monica office will be the organization’s first location on the West coast.
“We knew we wanted to come to LA and Santa Monica just made so much sense,” said Gregory Scott, the clinic director and certified speech-language pathologist.
The new office is situated at the corner of 6th Street and Arizona Avenue.
“Part of the therapy that we do is we’ll actually take our clients out into the world and into the streets and shops and coach them through these very real-life speaking scenarios,” he said. “So we wanted to be somewhere in LA that was highly walkable and Santa Monica is really known for its warm, friendly welcome to outsiders – so it’s kind of the perfect place to bring these people who are working on their speech and some of their fears.”
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there are over three million people in the US who stutter. However, there are only about 150 speech therapists who are certified specialists in stuttering.
“This means that most people who stutter are being treated by non-specialists,” said AIS Executive Director and Board-Certified Specialist in Fluency Disorders Heather Grossman.
She said this is harmful because there is a lack of education on how to best help and support people who stutter and that trying to stop someone from stuttering by specifically focusing on it actually makes it worse.
“Stuttering is very, very paradoxical in nature, meaning that the more you try to not do it, the more of a problem and a struggle it is,” she said. “That’s really the basis of our philosophy.”
Grossman said there is significant public misunderstanding about stuttering despite the availability of information.
“We know that stuttering is neurological, meaning that there are differences in the way areas of the brain communicate, not that there’s a disorder, but just a difference in how the areas communicate” she said. “We also know that it’s genetic.”
Scott said this is important information because people who stutter often feel like they are doing something wrong and that it’s something they should be able to control.
“For most of the people who stutter, it’s something that they were born with,” Scott said. “It’s genetic, it’s how their brain is wired and it isn’t their fault. It’s not a mistake, it’s not a lack of practice, and it’s not a failure.”
He said that this is an important part of AIS’s approach and that they focus on helping people who stutter feel understood and supported and building their confidence.
“The success is not eliminating the stutter,” said Scott. “The success is showing up to say what you want to say, when you want to say it, with poise and confidence whether you stutter or not,”
In addition to therapy services, AIS also partners with teachers and schools to train speech language pathologists in best practices for working with children who stutter and provides advice and guidance to family.
Financial assistance to access their services is available and Scott said that over half of their current clients are receiving some discount on the rate they pay.
The Santa Monica location is currently accepting clients and there will be an open house at the new location on Sept. 20.
Additional information is available on their website https://www.stutteringtreatment.org.