Calling ALL SLPs: Stuttering Challenge

I am earning my masters in speech-language pathology at Touro College. I am taking my first fluency disorders class this semester, and I love it! As part of our midterm grade our professor asked us to do a project in which we must stutter in a public place, with a stranger for at least 5 minutes. I completed this assignment and was astonished by some of the responses I received! Some people I encountered were empathetic, while others were cruel and completely inappropriate in the way in which they responded to dysfluent speech.

This was an extremely enlightening experience for me! It allowed me to enter the world of a PWS, and truly understand what they have to deal with on a daily basis.

The question that I am possing is do you think ASHA would ever consider making this a requirement in the certification process? We often times have students and adults on our caseload who have fluency disorders. But we never truly understand what they go through, this would give us a better insight to our clients feelings and emotions, and perhaps better assist us in our delivery approach for PWS.

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Calling ALL SLPs: Stuttering Challenge — 3 Comments

  1. Dear Kolson,
    I always gave my students an assignment to voluntarily stutter in public. I had them do only three (and potentially) short situations. I did it for two reasons. First, it gave them a chance to get at least a taste of what some stutterers experience, although it is not at all the same experience of a real stutterer. Second, if they were later to take their clients out to do public speaking situations, they would be much more successful with fearful clients if they did the first 10 situations themselves. Some past experience certainly helps in such circumstances.
    I can tell you that I have been challenged–not by students but by a well-respected colleague–about this assignment. She asked, “If you were teaching a class in mental retardation [the old terminology, I realize], would you ask your students to go out in public and pretend to be mentally retarded?” That was tough to answer. And after that, I always made a point to tell my students never to try to purposely make others any more uncomfortable than the stuttering itself might do.
    So, no, I do not believe this should be a requirement for certification. It’s a good thing to do, but when activities such as these are institutionalized, there are always problems that cannot be anticipated. For example, stuttering is seen much differently in different cultures around the world, and so is the fact of walking up to strangers and talking with them.
    Just my opinion…
    Ken

  2. Hello Kolson,

    I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this experience that your professor assigned to you. It sounds like this task your professor assigned became a meaningful one for you. I recall learning that voluntary stuttering can also be an enlightening experience for people who stutter because they may find that a majority of the general public will not have a strong reaction to their disfluencies. However, like you expressed, reactions may be less sensitive so I believe that assigning this to either clients or SLP graduate students could be a risk. I agree with Ken’s response (see above) that it would be difficult for ASHA to approve of pretending to stutter in public as part of certification to become an SLP. Although it would could potentially provide better insight into the daily life of people who stutter, the legalities and ethics presented in instructing thousands of students to implement this situation could keep ASHA from making it an aspect of certification. Until this question is posed to them on a larger scale, I think professors may opt to continue to assign this task if they find it to be instructionally sound and relevant. I can certainly appreciate the benefits and risks related to this assignment. As someone who has undergone counseling, I believe this experience has better prepared me as a clinician to understand the entire helping process. Undergoing therapy could be another, less risky process that ASHA could one day require students to take part in to gain the same kind of insight you discussed. Overall, it’s important that we consider the things all of our clients, including those who stutter, encounter each day. ASHA does require certain knowledge and skills that correlate with putting on the lenses of others. A successful clinician should be able to talk with their client and “put on” their perspective through multicultural sensitivity, family-based, and team based learning as well as inter-professional collaboration. I would love to hear your comments and others’ regarding the idea of a stuttering challenge for current and future SLPs.

  3. Kolson,

    I am currently in the master’s program at University of Redlands. I have had a pseudo-stutter assignment in both my undergraduate and graduate fluency disorders classes. Even though it is difficult and awkward, I found both situations to be excellent learning situations. It was enlightening in both a clinical sense and a psychological sense. Clinically, it gave me the opportunity to practice stuttering so that I can use it as a tool with clients for them to experience controlled stutters. And psychologically, it gave me a small and limited view of what it would be interact with a stutter. I agree that it is not a feasible for ASHA to require it, but I do think that it is an excellent experience that every SLP should have.

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