Why no "continuous phonation?"

As many of you know, we are continuing to post “how to” videos for teaching speech handling strategies to children and adolescents who stutter. These videos complement discussions of speech strategies in our clinical manual, School Age Stuttering Therapy: A Practical Guide. Recently, we posted our newest video (find our pausing/phrasing video here), and subsequently received a Facebook request from a SLP for a video highlighting the “continuous phonation” strategy. 

Unfortunately, I had to inform this colleague that we would not be posting a video on that particular strategy. This is because in my clinical training and experience, continuous phonation is often misunderstood and misused by my students and clients. Specifically, it leads to decreased pausing/phrasing and decreased breath support. I find my students tend to “run out of air” while using continuous phonation. Physiologically, when they attempt to finish speaking with forceful exhalation, this increases their speech tension as they try to communicate on residual air toward the end of their utterances. In other words, continuous phonation (in my experience and opinion) has a high occurrence of “backfires!” It simply does not produce the intended result. 

If the goal is to help students ease tension and increase levels of fluency by “smoothing out” their speech, then continuous phonation is not the only game in town. Instead, a healthy balance of light contact/easy onset and appropriate pausing can yield the same (or better) results.  This combination of strategies has the added benefit of sounding and feeling less artificial than continuous phonation. With time and practice, the naturalness that can be obtained increases the likelihood of carryover, among other benefits. 

When selecting strategies for stuttering therapy, it is important to remember that while experiencing increased fluency is great, artificial sounding (and feeling) fluency rarely hits the mark! 

Please let me know if you have follow-up questions. At STR, we are always happy to help! 


Nina Reeves

Written by : Nina Reeves

Nina Reeves, M.S. CCC-SLP is a staff fluency specialist at Frisco ISD in Texas and fluency specialist consultant for San Diego Unified Schools. She focuses her private practice on children and adolescents who stutter and their families. Nina is a presenter and author, volunteering her time for both the National Stuttering Association and the Stuttering Foundation. Her more recent works include Early Childhood Stuttering: A Practical Guide, School-Age Stuttering Therapy: A Practical Guide, the Minimizing Bullying program, and more (all published by Stuttering Therapy Resources, Inc.