Education

One way to bring change is through education, and especially the education of children. In your opinion, how could we help other children be more accepting of a child who stutters? And for adults, what would you tell a parent that is set on “fixing” their child’s stutter?

Thanks!

Alexa

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Comments

Education — 4 Comments

  1. Thank you for pointing out these importanttopics. Childrenwho stutter often have to deal with the lack of acceptance from theirenvironment – peers, teachers, but sometimes even their lovedones.  This is caused by a level of ignorance in society and by alack of understanding of the essence of stuttering. Instead of fullyparticipating in social and school life they could choose to be silent. Itis the worst possible scenario. What is more, children who stutter are easytargets for teasing and bullying. For these reasons, it is very important toeducate not only these children themselves about stuttering but also theirparents, teachers as well as their peers. I would recommend some extraordinarydocumentaries which are widely available (those prepared by the StutteringFoundation, eg.: Stuttering – Straight Talk for Teachers; Stuttering –For Kids by Kids or Stuttering – For Kids by Kids – All Grown Up;  orby the Michael Palin Centre for Stammering: Wait, wait, I am notfinished yet). Publications prepared by Scott Yaruss and the team on how tominimize bullying for children who stutter or how to work with parents couldalso be a very inspirational source. Working with the environment of the childwho stutters is, in my opinion, the key element of a successful intervention.It is extremely important for parents to understand how difficult it is fortheir children to learn speech tools (fluency shaping and /or stutteringmodification techniques). It is also vital to make them aware that they shouldnot put too much pressure on their children while applying these techniques inthe real world.   So it is very importantto work on the acceptance of stuttering among parents as well.

  2. Often while helping a child set realistic goals and expectations from therapy, we use cognitive exercises to drive across the point that “no one’s perfect”, “there is nothing like 100% fluency”, or that “every person is different..everyone has a different profile of strengths and weaknesses, and that does not make some individuals better than others”. In my opinion, these points need to be communicated with as much emphasis to caregivers and people in the child’s immediate environment. Every awareness program that is conducted in schools, etc. should ensure that this message is conveyed to children, as well as to parents, so that they can in turn pass it on to their children. Educating them about stuttering specifically, is, of course, important. But in addition, changing people’s attitudes towards differences in general will certainly be a stepping stone to better acceptance of stuttering.

  3. Hi Alexa-

    Thanks for your question! One thing that I’ve done in the past – especially with young children who stutter – is to encourage their teacher to read a book about celebrating differences at the beginning of the school year. Todd Parr and Jamie Lee Curtis have some wonderful children’s books that talk about the fact that everyone is different. After the class reads the book, the teacher can facilitate a conversation with the students about differences. Perhaps the students would each have an opportunity to talk about what makes them different/unique (e.g., I wear glasses; I don’t like loud noises; I stutter, etc.). The students can then talk about what helps/what hurts other students. This can be a really great way to set the precedent for how to treat other students – and hopefully can prevent possible instances of bullying/teasing from occurring by celebrating differences.

    For slightly older students, having them give a presentation to their class or facilitate a conversation with their peers about what helps/what doesn’t help when it comes to stuttering can also be helpful. This allows the student to educate their peers about stuttering (what it is, what it isn’t, etc.) and to hopefully clear up any misconceptions that exist. A conversation like this can also set the precedent for talking about stuttering openly for both the student and his/her peers.

    When it comes to parents, I like to spend time facilitating a conversation about what their child does well (versus focusing on what their child struggles with – like stuttering). I also usually do an activity in which the child lists five things they do well and five things they struggle with. I have the parents and siblings do the activity too at the same time as the child. This way, the child can see that their parents and siblings struggle with things as well. And, this also helps the parents to realize that they are not ‘perfect’ either. I also talk about improving communication skills as a whole – and touch on the fact that we are all working to be better communicators (whether we stutter or not). Many times, the parents will set their own communication goals to work on as the child is working on his/her communication skills as well.

    Hope this answers your questions!

    Best,
    ~Jaime

  4. Hi Alexa,

    To add to the insightful comments above, I’ll take on the question that asks about what to tell parents who are set on “fixing” their child’s stutter. Given what we know about the persistence of stuttering in the school-age population, it can be tempting to try to “set them straight” and expedite the journey toward acceptance. However, in my experience, it is best to meet parents right where they are, and to help them evolve their understanding of stuttering and communication, and of the choices children can learn to make surrounding stuttering and communicating, over time. It’s a marathon – not a sprint.

    Kristin Chmela has beautifully said that helping school-age children who stutter starts with a conversation, and this conversation shows interest in what the child is interested in and creates relationship, which is a powerful factor in treatment success. The same holds true for the parents of children who stutter. Helping children who stutter also starts with a conversation with their parents. Listening deeply to parents and engaging them in an ongoing dialogue plants the seeds for positive, long-term relationships to evolve among all parties. These positive relationships provide a safety net that children will need as they begin to take risks, stepping out of their comfort zones and into their zones of communicative growth. Best,

    Rob Dellinger

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