New Stuttering Lab Resurrects Strong SU Research Tradition
Victoria Tumanova’s stuttering research lab in the communications sciences and disorders department resumes a long SU tradition of research on the subject. Tumanova, along with two undergraduate and two graduate students, explores the causes and persistence of stuttering in children and is looking to recruit Syracuse-area preschoolers, with and without stutters, for future studies.
“It’s great to see Dr. Tumanova rebuild a strong stuttering research program. In the ’80s and ’90s SU was one of the top stuttering research programs in the country,” says department chair, Karen Doherty. She explains that a former SU professor, Edward Conture, and an alumna, Patricia Zebrowski, mentored Tumanova prior to her accepting an assistant professorship at SU in 2013 and kicking off research in 2014. “Thus, it comes full circle for Dr. Tumanova to be the person to rebuild the stuttering lab,” Doherty says.
Stuttering is a speech disorder that first arises in children around the age of three. A majority of children recover, sometimes without therapy. However, others experience stuttering into adulthood. The condition is known to disproportionately influence boys and is thought to have a genetic component. It was previously thought that parents caused stuttering, but in fact the opposite is true: parents can support a child’s fluency through modifying their linguistic interactions.
“I have two friends, including a childhood best friend, who stutter, so I was familiar with the condition on a personal level,” Tumanova says.
Tumanova’s work focuses on factors that contribute to the development of stuttering in preschool-aged children. Specifically, she investigates how temperament, linguistic and speech motor control abilities influence the development of stuttering.
“Motivated by current theoretical models, I have been studying the association between emotional processes and developmental stuttering in early childhood,” she says.
Over the past 11 years Tumanova has investigated emotional and physiological reactions to word production, which is a challenge to children who are just learning to speak. Additionally, she has tracked motor control in stuttering adults through the use of movement tracking technology—a processes Tumanova is currently adapting to enable similar studies in young children.
Tumanova is now focusing on how preschoolers react when they stutter or produce other speech errors. The researchers measure psychophysiological reaction signals, including heart rate and skin conductance, which is a physiological response to an emotionally arousing stimulus. These tools are paired with motion capture to track speech motor control abilities.
“Several studies have shown that children who stutter are more reactive and less able to regulate their reactivity and attention than nonstuttering children. We’re trying to uncover how these differences in emotional reactivity and regulation may affect speech production, specifically speech fluency in these children,” Tumanova says.
The stuttering research lab is also recruiting preschoolers for current and future studies. They’re looking for children who do and do not stutter. Tumanova says, “the studies are fun for the kids and parents get valuable information about their kids’ speech and language development.” To participate in a study, contact Tumanova via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.