The inconsistent nature of stuttering often causes people who stutter to feel confused as they wonder whether the next word, sentence or conversation will go smoothly. People who stutter covertly have an additional frustration. They feel the stuttering, work hard to speak, and also live in fear of being found out.
Part of the frustration of covert stuttering is the result of the lack of understanding by the people around them. Parents, friends and teachers may not be aware of the feelings or the difficulty that the speaker is experiencing. Unfortunately, even when they try to explain, people who stutter covertly are too often told that they really don’t have a problem or that it is a psychological problem.
Some people believe that covert stuttering is different than overt stuttering. Speech pathologists have been known to turn covert stutterers away from speech therapy. After all, it’s difficult to use speech modification or fluency shaping techniques to change the speech when no stuttering is heard.
Even people who stutter overtly sometimes fail to understand covert stuttering. They may minimize the problems that the covert stutterer feels, and claim that if stuttering is not heard, it isn’t really stuttering. This only adds to the torment that people who stutter covertly experience.
I want to say unequivocally that covert stuttering is as real a condition as overt stuttering. In both conditions the speaker is not generating speech easily and automatically. Even when stuttering is not audible, there is very real pressure that can be felt in the head, chest, vocal tract, or abdomen. The person who stutters covertly may be very good at changing words quickly so that planned words are not actually forced out, or they may use more pausing so that blocks are not actually heard. However, what is going internally is not very different in overt and covert stuttering. In fact, some speech techniques for controlling overt stuttering, actually lead to covert stuttering, i.e. they result in less stuttered speech produced by a still mal-functioning speech production system.
Effective treatment for covet stuttering usually involves reducing the effort to hide stuttering, but people who stutter covertly do not have to try to stutter overtly on purpose, because this puts the focus on the stuttered speech instead of on the process of speaking. Learning how to process speech is as important for people who stutter covertly as it is for people who stutter overtly. They can learn to produce speech automatically and without effort. Since this is the goal of Dynamic Stuttering Therapy, treatment is just as effective for people who stutter covertly as for people who stutter overtly.