What interventions are helpful, in changing public attitudes toward people who stutter?

In years past I was active in volunteer work on behalf of people who stutter. In that capacity I was a member of a task force based at the University of West Virginia which in 1999 met to begin work on a survey instrument that would be used to measure public attitudes toward stuttering, and toward people who stutter.

Under leadership of Ken St. Louis the research project has brought together researchers, clinicians, and people who stutter in an ambitious and productive series of major research projects aimed at studying public attitudes toward stuttering in countries around the world.

In 2020, I presented an online workshop at the annual conference, which on this occasion was a virtual conference, of the Canadian Stuttering Association. At the workshop, I learned of a recent journal article which highlights research about how best to go about changing public attitudes toward stuttering.

You can access a PDF of the article at the following link:

Success in changing stuttering attitudes: A retrospective analysis of 29 intervention studies (2019)

You can access highlights of the article at this link; an excerpt reads:

HIGHLIGHTS

POSHA-S pre and post means classified 29 different samples into 4 success categories.

Three factors of interventions predicted success in improving stuttering attitudes.

These were: audience interest, personal connection, and relevant information.

Demographic variables did not predict intervention success.

Effective interventions reflect optimal matches between interventions and audiences.

ABSTRACT

Background

Against the backdrop of hundreds of studies documenting negative stereotypes and stigma held by the public regarding people who stutter, a substantial number of investigations have attempted to improve public attitudes and measure their results with a standard instrument, the Public Opinion Survey of Human Attributes–Stuttering (POSHA–S). Although the majority of interventions have been moderately to quite successful, a substantial minority have been unsuccessful.

Purpose

This study sought to determine what properties of interventions and demographic variables were predictive of least to most successful interventions. Preliminary to that, however, it required the division of samples into clearly differentiated categories of success.

Method

Twenty-nine different study samples containing 934 participants were categorized into four levels of success of interventions according to pre versus post POSHA–S summary mean ratings. Intervention properties and demographic characteristics and for each success category were analyzed for their predictive potential of successful attitude improvement.

Results

Interventions characterized by high interest or involvement, meaningful material, and content that respondents found to be relevant, but not excessive, tended to be associated with more successful interventions. In contrast, demographic variables were weak predictors of intervention success.

Conclusion

The authors hypothesize that maximally effective interventions reflect optimal matches between participant characteristics and intervention features, although the critical variables in each are not yet apparent.

Why I find this research of interest

I find this research of interest because I have an interest in the value of science and scientific research. It also is the case that I am not an academic. Instead, I write for a general audience.

I have been most interested to learn that as a writer seeking to reach a general audience, I can play a useful role as a non-academic in seeking to change, in a small way, public attitudes.

I can play a useful role, that is, because the research to date indicates that just sharing scientific information using academic language is not going to change public attitudes about a topic such as stuttering. Instead, other more general forms of language and storytelling, strongly grounded in evidence, are required.

Some previous posts which deal with public attitudes toward people who stutter, and how to go about seeking to change them, include:

How effective are public education campaigns, directed at changing people’s opinions about stuttering? How can the outcomes of such efforts be measured?

Stuttering Meets Stereotype, Stigma, and Discrimination (2015) features a wide range of chapters on changing attitudes (in a positive direction) toward stutterers

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