Stuttering: Let’s Talk About it!

8 Apr

image from Keyframe.org

Stuttering has always been an area of communication disorders that is particularly interesting to me.  It is complex.    There is still no conclusive evidence as to why people stutter.   And furthermore,  no two people stutter in the same way.

But first and foremost, let’s clear the air.  Yes, we should talk to kids  about stuttering.

Kids are smart. They know they stutter and they know you know.  If we don’t talk about it with them we are inadvertently sending the message that it is something to be afraid of and something to feel shame about.   “Talking about stuttering” with kids doesn’t mean having a parent or teacher tell them to try again, or slow down or think first.  Most of the time, what kids want most from their parent, or teacher, is someone to listen, someone to understand and accept them for who they are.  For most kids, stuttering is much more than just the stuttering we hear.  Research shows that most kids who stutter feel  a loss of control,  that they don’t have a voice,  and may feel like there is something wrong with them or that they are stupid.  We should talk openly with our kids about their feelings about stuttering and create open,  supportive channels of communication for them to be heard and understood.

There are strategies that we teach in Speech Therapy to help kids talk more fluently.  The goal with stuttering therapy, however, is not to get a child to stop stuttering completely.   The goals are:

  • to help kids learn about their own stuttering
  • to help kids learn how to gain control over their speech
  • to help kids work with their families, teachers and peers to increase support for the child’s challenging environment
  • and most importantly to help kids be effective communicators.

Stuttering is highly variable and changes over time.   Therapy is a place for the child to learn to experiment with his or her speech in different ways.  There are tools we can give our kids to help them speak more fluently.  However,  laying the appropriate groundwork during therapy is fundamental in order for kids to have success with using the strategies.  It takes lots of practice, hard work, presence and acceptance.  Outside of Speech Therapy, we need to first build acceptance and support the child in the challenging environment that they face.  We can focus first and foremost on WHAT our kids are saying and not HOW.

I went to an excellent workshop yesterday.  Dr. J. Scott Yaruss, Board Recognized Specialist and Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Pittsburgh presented “Effective Treatment for School-Age Children Who Stutter.”

We have several kids in our school who stutter, so this workshop was extremely relevant and useful.  Here are a few quick tidbits about stuttering from Dr. Yaruss’s workshop:

  • Disfluency is any disruption in smooth speech.  What makes stuttering different from normal disfluency in speech that we all experience, is that the speaker experiences a loss of control.
  • Stuttering behaviors can be prolongations of the initial sound in words (“llllllllike this”), part word repetitions (“li-li-like this), pauses, twitches, facial grimaces….These are all stuttering behaviors things we can see that indicate the speaker has experienced a “loss of control.”
  • Stuttering involves much more than the stuttered behaviors that we see and hear as listeners.  A child who stutters may also experience feelings of frustration, depression, embarrassment, shame, hopelessness, bullying, teasing, pressure from parents, teachers

Yaruss presented a framework for working with school age children who stutter.  His framework is not so different from other models I have used in the past.  One BIG difference, however, is that his framework is entirely student centered.  In addition to learning the fluency strategies, the student learns to become a self-advocate.  He learns about his own stuttering, the student himself educates his parents about his stuttering and stuttering therapy (the therapist facilitates this, but the child is completely in charge here), and the student learns how to talk with his teachers and peers about his stuttering.

Dr. Yaruss’s  framework also relies heavily on laying a proper foundation, learning about the speech mechanism and what they are doing when they stutter.  Therapists often move too quickly, and jump ahead to teaching fluency techniques but if a child doesn’t even know what he’s doing when he stutters in the first place, how can he really make a change?

Please visit the updated link category “Stuttering” for links to websites for people who stutter and resources for parents and clinicians.  For parents of kids who stutter, I really encourage you to check out these links.  The best place to start is by reaching out to some of these organizations and meeting other parents of kids who stutter.  Please let me know if you want guidance or assistance and I will be more than happy to sit down with you and help connect you with some great programs and people.

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2 Responses to “Stuttering: Let’s Talk About it!”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. What it’s Like to Stutter « MIKE DELLOSSO - April 13, 2011

    […] Stuttering: Let’s Talk About it! (ps20speechandlanguage.wordpress.com) […]

  2. Children Who Stutter Or Stammer | babysolutions - May 17, 2011

    […] Stuttering: Let’s Talk About it! (ps20speechandlanguage.wordpress.com) […]

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