How to change the stigma

Hi all! I am an SLP graduate student looking for some advice. I know that one way to bring change to the stigma against stuttering 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?

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How to change the stigma — 12 Comments

  1. Hello,
    You are asking important questions and I think that educating the public, the child, and the parents are important steps towards reducing stigma. There are great resources at https://www.stutteringhelp.org/, https://westutter.org/ and https://www.friendswhostutter.org/ on information for parents about stuttering and also encouraging children who stutter to give talks to the children in their classroom about the experience of stuttering. These organizations also offer newsletters for children who stutter to help reduce stigma. In addition, I suggest you look at http://isad.isastutter.org/isad-2015/papers-presented-by-2015/research-therapy-and-support/the-importance-of-challenging-the-public-stigma-of-stuttering/ for more information about stigma from Dr. Michael Boyle who has written several articles on the subject.
    Best Wishes,
    Barbara Amster

  2. Perhaps more so in stuttering, we train our clinicians to know the “right” answers without any real practical strategies to implement change. So how do we help change unfounded negative stuttering stereotypes, particularly in children? One great way is through self-advocacy and self-disclosure of stuttering. These skills are often best mentored by the self-help community, and by mentorship, and role playing. When the child who stutters (or their teacher) advocates or discloses stuttering, the world will view that child in a more positive light. (And to the contrary, our labs have documented that when a parent does this type of live disclosure, the world tends to view these children more negatively.) As such, self-advocacy and self-disclosure training is a big part of our clinical training regimen, where these skills are displayed, role played, encouraged, and finally completed as a part of the therapeutic process.

    Another way to say this… is that we can try to advocate for their to be a change in world culture, or we can empower the clients to improve their lives and sphere’s of influence themselves. I vote for the latter.

  3. Barbara gave some great links and references, snd Greg pointed out the importance of helping children self-advocate. I would like to add, on the topic of self-advocacy, that it is important to support children in learning how to self-advocate by having regular conversations about this. For example, asking how others react, both verbally and non-verbally, to their stuttering. When the child gives an example such as ‘They talk over me when I stutter’ or ‘they laugh when I get stuck’, ask the child what they would like their listeners to do and then problem solve how to make that happen. Bringing out specific problems and workong out

    • Working out concrete solutions will empower the child to speak up for themselves in real situations. As Greg noted, this is one of the most effective ways for someone who stutters to reduce negative responses from others. Lynne Shields

  4. Hello,

    To add to Gary Snyder’s comments, I am thinking of the adage, “It’s easier to put on slippers than to carpet the whole world.” In my view, it is important to scale our anti-stigma efforts not only up to the level of society, but down to the level of the individual client, where we are most likely to have a positive influence. In a 2017 presentation, Michael Boyle suggested a three-part approach to battling stigma: Protest, education, and contact (“Public stigma and stuttering: Improving attitudes through advocacy,” National Stuttering Association Research Symposium, July, 2017). Protest involves countering negative stereotypes against people who stutter. Education refers to separating myths about stuttering from facts. Contact involves sharing our lived experience with stuttering. According to Boyle, there is empirical evidence for the use of protest, education, and contact to reduce stigma surrounding stuttering. We can leverage these key elements in therapy. Best,

    Rob Dellinger

  5. I am a graduate student and I am working with a CWS. He is 11 years old and never had therapy before. Barbara’s links and all your comments had expanded my knowledge about stuttering. I have been worrying too much about what to do and how to provide therapy for this particular client. Teachers Pay teachers have great resources for therapy and I have found a stuttering awareness Jeopardy game online, as well.

  6. The National Stuttering Association JUST this past week initiated the GENERATIONS program. It is an amazing concept that is getting off the ground. We are linking older PWS with younger PWS. By making connections, people share wisdom, fears, solutions, efforts, successes, challenges, feelings, etc. Making connections among people (especially across generations with different life perspectives) can greatly alter a person’s feeling of commonality and solidarity…. and decrease the oppressive feeling of being alone in the struggle. Perhaps it will be helpful in changing caregiver perspectives, as well. Look at the website for it! http://www.westutter.org

    Great questions! Tricia

  7. I made a comment to this effect on a previous post as well. Often, the most difficult part of therapy with children is when parents want the child to be “fixed” and not stutter anymore. I have found it helpful to involve parents in the session, make them practice techniques with the child to show them how difficult it can be. Finally, one line of counseling/questioning I have found to be helpful with parents is to ask them why – why do you want your child to be fluent? What will it change, short-term and long-term? That helps open the door to a healthy conversation that allows us to dispel myths such as stuttering = bad and fluency = good. For most parents, they want their child to be fluent to (a) make it easier for the child; and (b) for the child to be successful. We can take it from there and brainstorm, does stuttering automatically make one unsuccessful? How many people who stutter are successful? Are there any fluent people who are not successful? This can really help change the conversation. This and ALL the amazing advise those who responded before me have given.

  8. The advice given here is excellent. The resources Ms. Amster gave are very helpful, and I do like Dr. Irani’s advice about working with the parents directly. Good counseling skills are particularly helpful; I might say to the parents something like, “it must be so hard to have a child who struggles with stuttering,” and invite them to share their feelings with you. It is certainly important to help the parents learn to support their child and accept stuttering, but it may be a long road. Getting parents to share their feelings is one step towards acceptance.

  9. Barbara, thank you for the insightful links. Both you and Greg made very valid points about self-advocacy and think that that would have a very positive impact on a child’s school experience and could possibly minimize the bullying that is associated with stuttering. Self-advocacy could also bring a level of confidence to a PWS that could also help reduce the severity of stuttering. I liked what Rob said: “It’s easier to put on slippers than to carpet the whole world.” That is a great perspective to have in our field as SLPs.

  10. I am a graduate student as well and find parent education to be so critical especially when dealing with children who stutter. I have worked with a number of school-aged children who stutter and when they are a new client and complete a “worry ladder”, parents can land pretty high on the worry ladder. With education and modeling how to communicate with a child who stutters, parents create a less “worrisome” environment for their child and have the opportunity to experience more successful communication.

  11. I am also a graduate student, and this topic is often very touchy for children as well as adults. A child who stutters should not be looked at as someone who needs to be fixed. In my experience while working with children who stutter, they are more comfortable when they are treated as if the problem doesn’t exist. In many cases self remediation is often possible. When children are treated normally it allows other children to be more accepting of them.

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