Real and virtual classrooms can trigger the same levels of stuttering severity ratings and anxiety in school-age children and adolescents who stutter

J Fluency Disord. 2021 Jun;68:105830. doi: 10.1016/j.jfludis.2021.105830. Epub 2021 Feb 15.

Abstract

Purpose: Many school-age children and adolescents who stutter experience the fear of public speaking. Treatment implications include the need to address this problem. However, it is not always possible to train repeatedly in front of a real audience. The present study aimed to assess the relevance of using a virtual classroom in clinical practice with school-age children and adolescents who stutter.

Methods: Ten children and adolescents who stutter (aged 9-17 years old) had to speak in three different situations: in front of a real audience, in front of a virtual class and in an empty virtual apartment using a head-mounted display. We aimed to assess whether the self-rated levels of anxiety while speaking in front of a virtual audience reflect the levels of anxiety reported while speaking in front of a live audience, and if the stuttering level while speaking to a virtual class reflects the stuttering level while speaking in real conditions.

Results: Results show that the real audience creates higher anticipatory anxiety than the virtual class. However, both the self-reported anxiety levels and the stuttering severity ratings when talking in front of a virtual class did not differ from those observed when talking to a real audience, and were significantly higher than when talking in an empty virtual apartment.

Conclusion: Our results support the feasibility and relevance of using a virtual classroom to expose school-age children and adolescents who stutter to a feared situation during cognitive behavioral therapy targeting the fear of public speaking.

Keywords: Anxiety; Public speaking; School-age children; Stuttering; Virtual reality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anxiety
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Schools
  • Speech
  • Stuttering*