My Pall Mall Puffing Potty Mouth Role Model

Dori HolteAbout the author:  Doreen (Dori) Lenz Holte is Mom to 18-year-old Elias, a young man who has stuttered since he was 2 ½ years.  After six years of research and reflection on their own journey, Dori published Voice Unearthed:  Hope, Help, and a Wake-Up Call for the Parents of Children Who Stutter.  Dori was recognized with the “Unsung Hero” award by the International Fluency Association for her efforts to help parents and speech therapists gain a broader perspective around the impact of speech therapy on children who stutter.

Over the past several years I have shared stories on my blog and in my book around the importance of listening – real, genuine listening – for all children including children who stutter.  Having taken so much time to reflect on this practice of listening, you’d think I’d be pretty good at it by now.  Apparently I’m not.  Just the other evening my 18-year old son Eli, who stutters, told me he was never going to talk to me again because EVERY TIME he comes in the room to say something, I make him do stuff like dishes, laundry, vacuum, clean the cat box, take out the trash, put the laundry away, mow the lawn, etc.  EVERY SINGLE TIME he claims.  Clearly he’s prone to exaggeration, but maybe my listening skills could still use some tweaking!

When we, as parents, think of being a good listener we most often think of good eye contact, thoughtful questions, and of course, shutting our mouths and opening our ears.  I’ve come to believe that with children who stutter it’s best to forget about those first two suggestions and focus on shutting our mouths and opening our ears.  I also have come to believe that this is good advice for speech therapists.

If a child has a speech therapist, that person is probably one of the few in their life that really has time to listen.  Research-based evidence claims that having one adult who will listen without passing judgment can be the one most important factor for a kid who is struggling.  Moms and dads are apparently busy worming their way out of housework, teachers are swamped with the needs of their students in overcrowded classrooms, grandparents are working well past their retirement age, and counselors are expensive!    Speech therapists — you have a golden opportunity to really make a difference through listening.

I started researching peer-reviewed journals to find quotes and numbers to prove my point, but Lorraine kept popping into my mind.  Pall Mall puffing, potty-mouth Lorraine.  I decided to run with it…

When I was a teenager, we had one small bathroom in our farmhouse and had to literally walk through our parents’ bedroom to use it.  Combining that with an ancient septic system and limited water supply, the old outhouse back by the grove of trees was often called into service, especially when extended family came to visit.    Often, probably at round 3 a.m., cousin Lorraine would sock me in the arm to wake me up so I could accompany her to the outhouse.  She was 12 years older than me which made this a huge honor.  This adult wanted to spend time with me!

Lorraine would light up a Pall Mall for the trip and we’d tip-toe down the steps, giggling our fool heads off.  Once out the back door, we’d grab each other’s hands and bolt through the cold wet grass, Lorraine swearing a blue streak.  My job would be to hold (and puff on) Lorraine’s Pall Mall and keep a look-out for men with axes.  Apparently the corn fields of southern Minnesota were full of them in those days.

smokingLorraine and I bonded over those trips to the old outhouse.  Once back in the safety of our bed, too wound up to sleep, we would talk.  Well, I would talk and Lorraine would listen.  I could say anything to Lorraine, she would never pass judgment.  She listened to my troubles and my hopes and dreams.

No one in the world would have positioned the Pall Mall smoking, potty-mouthed Lorraine as being a good role model for a struggling teenager.  But she was.  She made me feel confident, valued, worthy, and heard.  My voice, what I had to say, was important to her.  She made a difference.

To all the hard-working compassionate current and soon-to-be speech therapists out there – be the Lorraine in your clients’ life.  You have that golden opportunity – one-on-one uninterrupted time to just listen – no assessment, no judgment.  Just listen (Pall Malls and potty mouth optional).

Work with parents to help them recognize when their child talks the most and recreate that environment as often as possible.  Work with teachers to help them make talking more comfortable in the classroom setting.  Help them all to become better listeners without making a child feel they are being interrogated.

Remember, research-based evidence claims that having one adult who will listen without passing judgment can be the one most important factor for a kid who is struggling.  Don’t pass up the opportunity to be that factor in a child’s world – every single time!

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My Pall Mall Puffing Potty Mouth Role Model — 82 Comments

  1. Great paper Dori. REAL listening does require practice and mindfulness but is of utmost importance for parents and therapist alike. Even children who seem to be doing just fine in terms of stuttering commonly don’t have the chance to talk about their experiences and feelings. I always recall a 12-yr-old I knew whose Mom had asked him if he wanted to still go to therapy since we were only doing voluntary stuttering told her “Yes, that’s the only time I get to talk about my stuttering life.”

    • Thanks Heather — sounds like Mom could use a bit of educating (can’t we all?)…how great for that 12-year old, to have someone to listen to him without judgment.

  2. Hi Dori,

    Thank you for sharing your experience with us on the importance of “shutting our mouths and opening our ears.” For many people, this is an extremely hard task. In my opinion, most individuals find silence to be frightening or uncomfortable, constantly searching for words to fill the void. Also, people who are not educated on stuttering feel that they are helping the person who is stuttering by interrupting or trying to finish what was being said. However, this is actually not helpful at all. People who stutter just want to be heard, and your advice to sit back and listen is sometimes all a person who stutters needs. You mention that SLPs should work with teachers to make the person who stutters feel more comfortable to communicate in a classroom setting. In what ways can a teacher accomplish this?

    • Thank you for your comments and questions Stefanie. I was one of those people who was uncomfortable with silence (grew up in a big noisy family). Training myself to not feel that pressure to fill the void was so freeing — it also helped our son regain his voice…win win. Your question about working with teachers is so important.

      Much of what can be done in the classroom will depend on the child and the teacher. (I knew a teacher who demanded that each and every child make eye contact and say “Good Morning Mrs. Serverson” as they came in the door. Can you imagine the child who wakes up in the morning and his first feelings are fear and dread because of this? This teacher did not have a child who stuttered in her classroom, but I asked her if she would revise her expectations to make it more comfortable for a child who stutters. She said probably not — at she felt it was more important to do the other eye contact thingy. This is where a teacher needs to be flexible, open, and educated. So it depends a ton on the teacher and how they run their classroom. Everyone in a school setting needs to first realize that this can be the absolute hardest environment for these children…talking in front of groups, constantly being judged, not to mention the bullying and teasing that often goes on. So keeping that in mind – I would suggest a teacher look for ways to reduce those pressures that don’t point the kid out as “special.” Reading in unison, giving all kids the option to do presentations one-on-one with the teacher rather than in front of the classroom (Communication apprehension is an issue for many children, not just those who stutter.How they are treated in this very difficult setting can greatly affect the long-term well being and esteem of those children.) Giving the child all the time they need (which may be minutes, it may be years) to feel comfortable, safe, and wanting to talk. Always including an activity component that doesn’t involve speaking that anyone can be part of. But again, always leaving that door wide open and helping the child feel safe. It’s a tough one, but I have no doubt that there are many wonderful teachers out there who have done some brilliant maneuvers and adjustments to flawlessly support these kids. My book focuses on keeping kids talking and I have been told by teachers that they found it very helpful even in the classroom setting. I’m afraid that the more teachers are forced to produce specific short-term measures and outcomes, the harder it will be to make these accommodations. But that’s another whole paper… Thanks again for your great question.

  3. Hi Dori,

    Thank you for sharing your experience and offering advice to speech pathologists and to family members. Do you have any suggestions on how to sensitively counsel parents of children who stutter who seem to do all of the talking including answering too often for their children who stutter instead of letting them speak for themselves?

    Thank you so much,

    Debbie

    • Hi Debbie – that’s a great question. In fact I just witnessed this a few months ago with the parent of a teenager who stutters. Kind of blew me away. He seemed perfectly okay with it, probably because it’s been going on all of his life. Not a good thing to have a child who stutters grow immune to!

      I’m not a speech therapist, but I would imagine myself being pretty straight forward with the parent – explaining to them the importance of keeping the child talking and having positive communication experiences. The importance of them gaining self-confidence (in general and in relation to their communications) and how the parent can do so much to help make that happen. Educate and empower the parents to continue to be a force in this child’s life, but equip them with specific ways to encourage abundant talking while giving the child time to get their words out. That’s what I would do… My book, “Voice Unearthed: Hope, Help, and a Wake-Up Call for the Parents of Children Who Stutter” talks about specific ways they can help make this happen. Thanks again for your question — are you a Com Dis student?

      • Hi Dori,

        Yes, I am in the master’s program for communication disorders. Thank you so much for your insight and thoughtful response to my question. I definitely want to read your book as it sounds like a great resource when counseling parents of children/teens who stutter. Thank you again for sharing your message!

        Sincerely,

        Debbie

  4. Hi Dori, I enjoyed your article and the way this instance of having a good listener in one’s life can be generalized to all people, whether they stutter or not. Everyone needs an outlet for their thoughts and feelings, and having someone who will simply listen is something that everyone needs in their lives, especially children who are at important developing stages. I am currently in Graduate school for Speech Language Pathology, and we have just touched on the topic of working with the teachers and parents in order to create an optimal communication environment. Regarding the classroom, we discussed how taking some steps in order to allow a child who stutters the most stress-free opportunities to communicate is extremely important. We said if the child feels comfortable enough, to have them privately discuss with their teacher their feelings on their communication in class. Maybe make some goals and identify moments when they would be prepared to talk.
    I also agree that an SLP has the perfect opportunity to identify when and on what topics the child talks the most, when in the therapy setting. I think it would be beneficial to discuss this with the parent and have them recreate this environment or opportunity in order to get their child talking more. My question to you is, as a parent or an SLP, what if the child is hesitant to talk at all, whether they have a good listener or not. What if they simply do not want to hear their own speech because it isn’t fluent? Also how do you identify if the child isn’t doesn’t want to speak because of their stutter, or if they are in that shy, stubborn stage of life? Any ideas of how to approach this, or how to assist the child in progressing through this “wall”?

    • Hi Arielle — great questions. First off, I’m not a speech therapist. I’m mom to an 18-year old who stutters and I published the only book out there written from a parent’s perspective, helping others to understand the possible impacts of speech therapy beyond the clinic setting. I hope you’ll read it. I’m so glad that your classroom approach is focused on keeping them talking and engaged rather than lessening the stuttering behavior. And how to do that will vary from child to child and teacher to teacher. Hopefully their teachers are flexible and creative and will accommodate the child in a way that doesn’t make them stand out as different.

      Communication apprehension is an issue for many children, not just those who stutter. I believe this is an anxiety issue and should be addressed as such, whether or not they stutter. (again, I’m not a speech therapist).I think we need to be incredibly patient and do as much as we can to help those kids feel safe and included. It seems that if kids are able to focus on something they are really excited about, they are more apt to engage freely, especially one-on-one or in a small group. Maybe that’s where we start. Helping a child get beyond these fears takes a collaborative effort and possibly years of support. Thanks again for your question and best of luck to you in your chosen field. It’s exciting to know grad students are focusing on this critical step…

  5. Hi Dori,
    Thanks for sharing your story. I am currently a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in the Communicative Disorders program and agree that it is important for the SLP to be an active listener for any client, especially for a person who stutters. In my fluency class we have had discussions about how some therapy sessions for clients were focused on the SLP listening to the client and sort of being a counselor while others preferred treatment. During your sons therapy sessions, were the session focused on treatment or more about confidence and understanding that it’s okay to be a person who stutters?

    Thanks,
    Kristin

    • Hi Kristin — I think the best way to answer that is to read my book, “Voice Unearthed: Hope, Help, and a Wake-Up Call for the Parents of Children Who Stutter.” I also believe I gifted one to the Com Dis program at UWSP so maybe you can unearth it :-))

      In a nutshell, our son’s therapy sessions focused primarily on minimizing or eliminating the stuttering behavior using speech tools and techniques until he was nine. His struggle went from mild to moderate to severe, he had become extremely quiet, even with family and friends, struggled with depression, sleep issues, and lack of confidence. I’m not suggesting that this was all due to the speech therapy he was receiving, but I have no doubt that the focus on eliminating his stutter contributed to this downward spiral. From the time he was nine until today, we engaged in a process (usually covert) to get him talking again, increase his confidence, and increase his social interactions – rather than getting rid of his speech errors. We did this under the supervision of a very quirky Com Dis professor out of UWRF – Dr. Jerry Halvorson. Today he’s a freshman in college majoring in Astro-biology, joined four clubs the first week there, has a darling girlfriend, and often takes leadership roles in whatever he engages in. And yes, he still stutters.

      I believe that to have a kid going to speech therapy once or twice a week, doing special practice time at home, and focusing on getting rid of the stutter — and then telling them that it’s really okay is a bit absurd. Children are not adults and do not have the developmental capacity to sort through those messages in a productive way. They will often choose silence instead of risking a speech error. That silence can often become a far greater handicap than the stutter itself. Thank you Kristen for your thoughtful question and best of luck in this field!!

  6. Hi Dori,

    I too feel that it is very important as speech language pathologist to develop a great rapport with their clients, especially with a teenager. Teenagers must be willing to work with the therapist, otherwise treatment will not be successful. Adolescence is a difficult time in any child’s life, let alone the teen years of a person who stutters. As a speech language pathologist in the making, I look forward to being the Lorraine in clients’ lives.

    Thank you for reminding me that the initial time I get to meet a client is very crucial. It is that one golden opportunity I have to show them that I am accepting of who he is as a whole, genuinely interested in their over all well-being. I will have an open heart and open set of ears in hopes that the initial comfort they feel will be their first step toward fluency.

    Jaclyn

    • Hi Jaclyn – thanks for responding. I always say that if a kid doesn’t want to be there, then it’s really not doing any good, no matter the age. I’m not a speech therapist but the “golden opportunity” lies in every session, not just the initial session. It takes time to build up a comfort and trust level that will produce the level of talking that we want of these kids. I think the best a speech therapists can do is to focus on keeping them talking and engaged, rather than focusing on fluency. Although I do believe that teens can sometimes find the use of a speech tool helpful. But if not, let it go — keep them talking no matter how much they stutter. Figure out what they are passionate about, what they are most apt to go on and on about — and you can be that person who truly values and enjoys what they have to say. That’s the gold! Best of luck to you Jaclyn!!

  7. Hello Dori,

    I really enjoyed reading this article. I happen to be a graduate student working to become an SLP. I have always believed in the power of lending an ear to anyone in need, and knowing when to keep your advice to yourself. I really liked how you shared your son’s perceptions, although seemingly exaggerated; they helped you realize that he feels like he is not heard.

    Just like you said, it’s important to let a person express themselves in order to feel valued, confident, worthy, and heard. These are important for every struggling teenager, but especially for a person who stutters. I look forward to my first stuttering client so I can be that person for them!

    Thank you,
    Megan

    • Thanks for reading my paper Megan. I always say that we should listen more closely when our kids are complaining and whining than when they’re waxing poetic to please us. And as a mother of three boys, easier said than done!! Best of luck to your Megan!

  8. Hi Dori,

    I am a first year graduate student studying speech-language pathology at UW-Stevens Point. I am in a fluency class and we are learning that stuttering is so much more than speech disfluencies!

    I really enjoyed your paper! It was a unique story that really highlighted that the most important thing a therapist can do for their client is listen to their story and their needs. “Speech therapists — you have a golden opportunity to really make a difference through listening.” This quote resonated with me and I will keep this in mind when working with people who stutter.

    I enjoyed hearing your advice as a parent because it is important to consider the important people in the PWS’s life. It is also great advice to take the time to listen and then encourage other people to listen too (teacher, parents). As a parent of a PWS, how have you been involved with therapy? Have the speech therapists kept you, as the mother, highly informed and involved? or not so much?

    Thank you!

    Katie Kozulla

    • Hi Katie – I responded to you once but it seems to have gone away, so I apologize in advance it you get this twice. Thank you for taking the time to read my paper. Our last therapist involved us extensively by helping us to get our son talking again and reengaged in the world around him. OUr son’s previous therapy (with several therapists focusing on speech tools) only lead him to social withdrawal and silence. As I told Kristen from UWSP, I gifted my book to UWSP – “Voice Unearthed: Hope, Help, and a Wake-Up Call for the Parents of Children Who stutter.” Maybe you can unearth it? :-))

      One therapist would not let me in the room, another therapist allowed me to observe (and he was using those tools just fine while with her), and one therapist engaged me in his session working on speech tools. They all had me working on his speech tools at home.

      The reality, as I understand it, is that the therapist cannot bill the insurance company for time not spent with the child. So most of my education came from brief conversations at the hand-off in the waiting room, something I felt was very inappropriate – because there is no privacy, the child is right there with you, and if you asked too many questions, you’d be taking up time designated to the next client.

      Parents are blindsided when their child starts stuttering. They turn their child over to a professional assuming they will do no harm. Please understand — each speech therapist our son had was kind and clearly did not have any intention of causing harm, but there was harm none-the-less. I hope you will read the book for further understanding of the impact of therapy on a child outside the clinic setting. Thanks again for your questions and best wishes to you Katie!

      • Thanks for the response! I did not consider the billing situation and how parental education would be affected.

        Did you have the best results when you were engaged in the sessions? Was learning techniques and using them at home most beneficial?

        I will look for that book in our department! Thanks 🙂
        Katie

  9. Hello Dori,
    I am a graduate student at he University of Redlands in California. I definitely agree with what you said about speech therapists having a unique opportunity to make an impact in a child who stutter’s life. This reminded me of a podcast I listened to on stuttertalk last year. They were discussing when a good time to switch from indirect to direct intervention would be. One thing I remember the speech therapist saying is that not all SLPs are cut out to work with children who stutter. It takes a special kind of clinician to balance the counseling (both child and parents), mentoring and therapy skills required. There is also the issue of personalities of the clinician and client just not matching, especially in older children who stutter. Would you agree that if the resources were available, it is worth finding a therapist that fits best with your child?
    Thanks for the article.

    • Hi Christopher – thanks for your question. I’m not a speech therapists but I believe that introducing speech tools and techniques into treatment for a child who stutters comes with real risks of producing silence and withdrawal which can often be a handicap far greater than the stutter itself. I am encouraged to see that there is an emerging trend towards cognitive behavioral therapy in the area. Finding a therapist that “fits best with your child” is meaningless unless a parent fully educates themselves as to the uncertainties and disagreements that exist within this field. We have no clue what the “best fit” should look like as we are usually completely blindsided by this challenge. Parents need to understand appropriate goals – as too often we parents go into this simply wanting the stuttering behavior to go away – and that can (and does) backfire. I hope you’ll consider getting a hold of my book “Voice Unearthed: Hope, Help, and a Wake-Up Call for the Parents of Children Who Stutter.” It is the only book out there written from a parent’s perspective, helping parents and speech therapists better understand the impact of therapy outside the clinic setting. Thanks again Christopher – (always nice to see guys in this field!!) Best of luck to you!
      Dori Holte

  10. Hi Dori – Gloria here from the other side of the state. I read your article and thought it was good stuff. There is one thing I would like to add. Being a person who stutters and having parents who did not always have the time to wait and listen to what I had to say, was hard, very hard. But what was harder was the fact I had no safe place to stutter. When home it was always go practice your words, go get that tape recorder out and listen to yourself. Today I am a strong believer that ALL children who stutter should feel safe at home. If they are tired and stutter a lot parents should make sure they do listen and no comments about practice those techniques. Home is a safety zone!

    Gloria

    • Hi Gloria — so great to hear from you! You’re absolutely right – home should be that safe place and I think a speech therapist’s office (at least for children) can also be that safe place. I’m so sorry that your parents didn’t understand how they were making you feel – and how scary that was for you. I know you’re an inspiration to many!
      Best,
      Dori

  11. Hi Dori,

    Your article reminded me of something that happened the other day. I have three cousins all under the age of eleven. Their parents are divorced and live in separate homes and just yesterday my aunt stated “listen to E! i think she stutters!” This took place over the din of a crowded restaurant with the waitress attempting to take our order and the youngest (six years)having a tantrum. Needless to say not optimal setting.

    With my cousins, I feel they just need a Lorraine and as a future slp I hope to be one! My question, what are some tips or tricks to being a Lorraine? And as a parent, How would you want to be told that the best thing to do for your child is to be a Lorraine?

      • Hi Sabrina — first off, be yourself and listen to your heart. If something doesn’t feel 100% right, do not push it away and keep plugging along because it is what you have been trained to do. Trust your intuition and take the time to research and unpack what those nagging feelings are all about. Be genuine and don’t be afraid to question and challenge.

        I know there are speech therapists who are having parents read my book, “Voice Unearthed: Hope, Help, and a Wake-Up Call for the Parents of Children Who Stutter” as a way to understand the importance of keeping our eye on the prize — which is not a child who doesn’t stutter, but a child who talks, is socially engaged, who feels good about themselves, who is able to pursue their passions as a way of gaining confidence…You’re right — you will do a world of good, both with your cousins and your clients if you become a genuinely great listener. Best wishes to you Sabrina!
        Best,
        Dori Holte

        • Thank you very much for the reply, I am going to pick up your book when i get the chance and possibly pass it along to my aunt!

  12. Dori,
    You are absolutely right. A non-judgmental listener is crucial to people struggling with a number of problems. Parents will be parents, and it can be hard on a child if they can’t find that quality within their family. As a parent and as “struggler,” do you have any advice on creating the opportunity to be heard upon non-judgmental ears? Possibly some words a child could say to their parent to get them to be open receptors?
    From: A future speech therapist

    • Hi Meghan — great questions. Being a good listener is not easy and it’s probably one of the main things I wish I could do over (especially when my kids were smaller). We’re always so busy with trying to maintain and it’s easy to underestimate the importance of listening especially when they’re just yammering on and on about Pokemon… I have examples of situations where Eli yammered the most freely in my book “Voice Unearthed: Hope, Help, and a Wake-Up Call for the Parents of Children Who Stutter.” Riding in the car and at bedtime were two winners. Getting a parent to be that parent who listens — they need to be educated on the importance and the amazing impact good listening can have on a child’s well-being. Some will get it, some won’t. Thanks for your question and best wishes to you!
      Dori Holte

  13. Hello Dori,
    Thank you for sharing your experience and pearl of wisdom with us.
    I believe this story of yours will help me in many ways down the road as an SLP. I do have a few question. Was their any other family members (including distant relatives)who stuttered besides you? I would also like to know which qualities of the SLP or treatment approaches were most conducive to helping your son manage his stuttering and/or motivate him to continue therapy?
    Thank you again.

  14. Hello Dori,

    It was really helpful to read about your perspective as a parent of a child who stutters. It is clear how critical it was for Eli to have a trusted and non-judgmental individual to just listen to him. I, too, am a graduate student studying to be an SLP. I am curious whether Eli found any strategies helpful at any time as he progressed through therapy, and at what point you realized that strategies seemed to be causing him more harm than good. Also, did you ever discuss the impact that focusing on fluent speech had on Eli with his SLPs? If so, how was it received and did the focus of his therapy change as a result?

    Thank you for your insight! It is most appreciated.
    Alissa Acker

    • Hi Alissa — unfortunately there were no strategies (other than not talking) that were helpful to him. We had an inkling for years – but then I’d go down the road of “how much worse would he have been if we hadn’t been in therapy” as at the time direct therapy was the only road available to us and we were desperate to help him. We hit rock bottom when he was nine, had grown very quiet and withdrawn, was struggling with depression and sleep issues, and twisted his chin to his shoulder and growled in order to talk. It’s kind of embarrassing to admit it took us that long to come to what now seem some pretty obvious conclusions — but we didn’t have the Internet access to information for most of that period. We just had the experts. Things have changed – (thanks to Judy Kuster and others) and I hope parents are going into it a little smarter than we did. The focus of his therapy changed from trying to get him to manage his speech and use speech tools to minimize the stuttering to getting him talking again and re-engaged in the world around him. If you want to know more, please consider my book “Voice Unearthed: Hope, Help, and a Wake-Up Call for the Parents of Children Who Stutter.” Thanks again for your great questions and best of luck to you!
      Dori Holte

  15. Hi Dori – great story, great example to illustrate the importance of listening. It makes such a big difference to be heard, not rushed and feel like the listener is really present with you.
    I have had the benefit of such a relationship with a therapist who listens, cares about me, and is of course completely non-judgmental. It is not speech therapy though. I’d like all speech therapists to take your words to heart and recognize what a gift they can give to a child who stutters. Even those who only have 20 minutes to see a child can make the most of that time. Thanks for such a well written piece.
    Pam

    • Hi Pam – always great to hear from you! Man, those listeners play such an important role in our worlds!! And you’re right — even 20 minutes can have an impact! When you think of it, how many people can dedicate 20 minutes – maybe twice a week, to just completely being there for that child – I can’t imagine a better way of spending that time!
      Best,
      Dori

  16. Hi Dori!

    What a great article! As an aspiring SLP, my goal is to make my practice a place where clients feel valued and respected. This article showed how important one individual can be to someone by doing something as simple as listening! SLPs have such an important job to not only provide therapy but also make their clients feel comfortable and make the therapy room a place where clients can voice their feelings or fears. A good SLP can make such a large difference in successful therapy! Thank you for your input on this!

    All the best,
    Samantha
    (Graduate Student)

    • Thanks for your comment Samantha. I think it’s really challenging for therapists to both “provide therapy” assuming you’re referring to speech tools and techniques, and to create a place/space where clients are comfortable voicing their feelings and fears. I’m not a speech therapist, but I think the importance of building that bond and listening far outweighs any time spent on teaching a child to “manage their speech. Yet it’s the most difficult to accomplish in a clinic setting/school setting and often the least focused-on aspect when educating speech therapists and reporting results. Best wishes to you Samantha –
      Dori Holte

  17. Hi Dori!

    After reading your story I felt compelled to write to you. What a great experience, thank you for sharing! As a future SLP, I find myself wondering what ways can I help and I agree, listening is key! I find that to be a challenge, even in day-to-day life. After reading your paper it reminded me how VERY vigilant I need to be with regards to listening.
    I often wonder what other ways can I help that go beyond our typical therapy techniques. Was there anything else, besides listening, that you have seen a SLP, teacher, member of the community, do that really made a difference? Perhaps something that once you saw you thought, “Ah ha! Why didn’t I think of that?”
    Again, thank you for sharing your experience and reminding me that something as simple as listening makes a HUGE difference.

    Best,
    Kristin

    • Hi Kristin — remember that I’m not a speech therapist – but as a consumer of therapy for my own child — I would not just “go beyond typical therapy techiques” but I would dump them all together. I seems like there’s a trend towards using cognitive behavioral therapy with children who stutter and I do believe that’s the direction treatment should go. We found that typical therapy techniques only contributed to adding layers of anxiety around communicating and made him grow increasingly quiet and withdrawn. Adults who helped him pursue his passions, laughed with him, and did not judge him always brought out the best. I hope you will consider finding my book “Voice Unearthed: Hope, Help, and a Wake-Up Call for the Parents of Children Who Stutter” for the whole story.

      • Your article about listening and this quote, “Adults who helped him pursue his passions, laughed with him, and did not judge him always brought out the best” will always be two things that I will keep in mind during therapy. Thank you for the advice!

  18. Hello Dori

    I really enjoyed reading this story and thank you for sharing it. I believe that your advice to therapists could not be better. I have had clients tell me that they enjoy coming to the sessions just to have the opportunity to be heard and not interpreted. I believe that it is important to provide a person an environment to just talk and give them the opportunity to convey their feelings to someone who may have an idea about what they are going through. What do you believe is affected by the listener? Could it be how the person feels about themselves or maybe how they believe the world sees them?

    Thanks
    Ben James

    • Hi Ben — considering that most people who stutter do not stutter when talking to themselves or their pets or their babies — the listener obviously plays a huge role in this behavior. A person who stutters has little control over how a listener responds, especially initially unless they disclose that they stutter (which I think is a good idea but could never talk my son into it). Eli gets that and doesn’t let a startled or confused reaction bother him. He knows there is usually nothing malicious behind those reactions. I’m very proud of him for that. I think helping a child not view themselves as a victim but as a confident person who may have to do a little educating around stuttering is the healthiest way to go. When a listener is a person who is continually judging his speech (and we do have some of those in our circle of friends — he can pick them out in a heartbeat), his speech tension increases. Whenever people come to me and say “oh, I talked to Eli and he hardly stuttered at all” then it’s my turn to educate!! Best wishes to you Ben —
      Dori Holte

  19. Hello wonderful mama Dori,

    Let me start by saying what an incredible inspiration you are to me. I am currently enrolled in my first semester of graduate school in North Carolina, to become an SLP. In addition to this, I am a single mother of a beautiful 2 year-old little girl who began to stutter one month prior to picking up our lives and moving for this amazing opportunity. It all began the day we visited the dentist for her yearly check-up. It was at this appointment that the dentist told her that she needed to stop sucking her thumb (which was a habit that she had picked up in utero). From that day forth, my daughter never sucked her thumb again. That same day when I picked her up from school, I noticed her beginning to stutter. It wasn’t something that alarmed me much at first but soon after I began to realize what had changed in her life that could possibly cause this to begin…she quit sucking her thumb.

    As time passed, the stuttering continued to get worse. Then it was time for us to move away from my mother, downsize our assets so we could live comfortably in a much smaller space, transition my daughter to a toddler bed from her beloved crib, remove her from her school and into a new one. All of these things happened in an instant. It has been my focus to slow my own speech and be the best listener possible for my daughter. This is so difficult at times…I do my best to allow her to help me cook and do light chores (which she loves to do because of her age), however, at times this seems impossible because it takes much longer to do these tasks and realistically we do not have much precious time until the weekends.

    Your determination in advocating for your son in such a way really hits home to me. I was wondering if there was an particular moment when you first noticed your son begin to stutter or possibly something that you believe may have created the onset of his stuttering? Also, at what point in time did you decide that speech therapy was necessary? I am aware that stuttering is common among toddlers and there is such a high chance for spontaneous recovery to occur. As a parent and future SLP, I am interested in your opinion on this matter.

    Sorry for the long post.

    Lisa

    • Hi Lisa — thanks for your enthusiasm and kind words. I related to your story about the thumb sucking. I have twins (now 22) who both loved their pacifiers. A trip to the dentist when they were three put an end to that. They cried and cried the first night (nearly broke my heart) but then were fine. Neither of them began to stutter — but their younger brother did. He was neither a thumb-sucker or a pacifier kid. We mothers rack our brains trying to figure out if we had a role in causing our child to start stuttering – and after hearing so many stories around the onset of this behavior — I believe each child has a physiological vulnerability and something (who knows what) brought it to the surface. Many parents report that it started with a new sibling. Some kids were scared by the neighbor’s dog, etc… I decided that pondering on the cause is a waste of energy, but I do believe there are things moms and speech therapists can do to ensure we don’t exacerbate the behavior. And you’re already doing it! You sound like you are a wonderful mother to your little girl — listening and letting her do things that will build her confidence and self esteem. You will make a great speech therapist!

      I guess I’m not your typical parent as I have been researching and writing on this topic for around nine years. I know that the spontaneous recovery rate is about the same whether or not the child receives therapy prior to five years old. Most therapy for this age group is pretty indirect. It’s usually around age 5 when therapists are encouraged to start direct therapy (speech tools and techniques) with the intent of minimizing or eliminating the speech errors. For us (and many other parents I’ve heard from) this backfired. What we ended up with was a child who barely spoke, who became socially withdrawn, and when he did talk, struggled far more than when he was a toddler. When he was nine, we changed our focus to keeping him talking and getting him to re-engage with the world around him. The outcome of his therapy resulted in a far greater handicap than the original challenge. He is now in college, a social butterfly with a darling girlfriend, majoring in physics, and often times the person who emerges as the leader in any group he engages with.

      I would be honored to gift you a copy of my book which tells our story and what I found in my research. I also have a Facebook page (Voice Unenearthed) that I just started several weeks ago – already have 60 members from all over the world. And a blog – voiceunearthed.blogspot.com. I hope you’ll join in – both as a mom and a future therapist. If you would like the book, you can send me your address – voiceunearthed@gmail.com. The book is also available on Amazon and as an e-book, but again – I would be honored to gift you a copy… best of luck to you Lisa.

      Dori Lenz Holte

      Our son began blocking when he was 2 1/2.

  20. Hello Dori,

    I enjoyed reading your article and gaining the perspective of a parent whose child stutters. I am currently a first year graduate student studying speech pathology. I had never thought about the importance of listening in my future career. With families working longer hours, I see the importance of allowing that time during therapy to sit back and listen. I loved how you connected this all to a childhood story.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Alissa

    • Hi Alissa – thank you for your comments. I’m glad you found the message to be useful in your future career. Best of luck to you.

      Dori Lenz Holte

  21. Hi Dori,

    I really enjoyed reading your article. Your story about Lorraine was a great example that a child needs someone in their life to listen to their concerns without passing judgement. I’m sure this also plays a large role in the life of a person who stutters. I am taking a stuttering course now and we have learned a lot about how the listener can affect the stuttering. What do you find yourself doing for your son in order to help him speak more fluently during conversations? Does he like for you to listen without interrupting or does he like for you to help him complete a word? Also, which qualities of the SLP did you find most positively helped your son?
    Thanks!

    • HI Jenna — for us, focusing on fluency backfired – By the time he was nine, our son became withdrawn and silent – easiest way to not stutter. When he was nine, we changed our focus to keeping him talking and engaged. Most (not all) people who stutter do not appreciate someone finishing their sentences and our son is no exception. The qualities of the SLP we ended up with (after many years and slps) was that he listened, he helped us to find ways to make talking fun again and to be intentional about recreating the times when he talks most (in the car, before bed, etc…). He helped us to understand the importance of increasing self-esteem, lightning up on behavior expectations, and listening naturally vs. intensely. So we were the ones in therapy. Eli is now 18, thriving in college, a social butterfly, often times emerging as a leader in clubs and classrooms. This is quite the opposite of what we saw when he was younger and we’re so glad we got him back!
      Thank you so much for your questions – best of luck to you.
      Dori Lenz Holte

  22. Hi Dori,

    I am a graduate student at Appalachian State University studying in speech-language pathology. First off, I just want to thank you for sharing your story. Sometimes, I feel like I am so focused on helping a client communicate, I forget that I may just need to be there to listen. THANK YOU for the reminder. I have a couple questions for you. What are a few qualities that you appreciated/or would appreciate for your son’s speech-language pathologist to have? What was the most helpful activity/strategy etc. that helped you and/or your son?

    Thanks for your time!
    Kassidy

    • Hi Kassidy. Thank you for your great questions. The qualities of the SLP we ended up with (after many years and slps) was that he listened, he helped us to find ways to make talking fun again and to be intentional about recreating the times when he talks most (in the car, before bed, etc…). He helped us to understand the importance of increasing self-esteem, lightning up on behavior expectations, and listening naturally vs. intensely. So we were the ones in therapy. Eli is now 18, thriving in college, a social butterfly, often times emerging as a leader in clubs and classrooms. This is quite the opposite of what we saw when he was younger and we’re so glad we got him back!

      Best of luck to you.
      Dori Lenz Holte

  23. Hello Dori,
    Thank you for a brilliant article. I think it’s often the simple aspects of therapy that are so often considered. As a future SLP I believe it’s important to remember and base our principles off of these core aspects. Additionally, I think it is crucial to take a step back and evaluate our own skills and find areas of improvement. I really enjoyed your input of your childhood story. Although Lorraine likely does not remember being your listener, the impact that she made on you is apparent. As a parent of a child who stutters, what was the most beneficial advice or information that you received? I also am a UWSP student and I will dig to find your book! Thank you again for the insight.
    Best wishes,
    Allie

    • Hi Allie – the most beneficial advice we got was to keep him talking and keep talking fun. Great question… best wishes to you.

      Dori Lenz Holte

  24. Hello Dori,

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am a graduate student in Speech and Language Pathology, and your story is helping to shape and mold my future practice. Thank you!

    You pose an excellent point, and I think that often the power of just “being” in a session gets overlooked (I think sometimes therapists feel the need to be visibly ‘doing’ something during therapy, which means that sometimes active listening gets overlooked). I agree that creating a safe space where the client can express themselves is imperative. Was there a certain point when you realized that the power of listening was having a large impact on your son? Additionally, I imagine that making time to listen to the client’s parents is just as important as listening to client. Have you had any experiences like this with your son’s speech therapists?

    Thank you so much for your time.

    Sincerely,

    Elizabeth Rose

    • Hi Elizabeth Rose – thanks for taking the time to read my paper. By the time our son was nine (after five years of therapy) he had become increasingly silent and withdrawn. We switched therapists and our approach to keeping him talking and making talking fun – no pressure, no judgment. That meant a lot of nonjudgmental and natural listening. Within three months we started to see a difference. In the meantime, he had no idea that therapy was happening. My book, Voice Unearthed: Hope, Help, and a Wake-Up Call for the Parents of Children Who Stutter” tells the whole story – your college may have a copy. Thanks for the great questions…
      Best,
      Dori Lenz Holte

      • Hi Dori,

        Thank you so much for your thoughtful response. I really appreciate it!

        Sincerely,
        Elizabeth Rose

  25. Do you have any addition information that could help a future SLP to become a better listener?

    • Straight to the point, I like that… practice listening — real listening. Practice with your family, your friends, your classmates. Practice pushing all those thoughts that are coming in to your mind as they talk out of the way and just keep listening. Take a deep breath and relax and listen with all of your being. Again, this takes practice and quite honestly, not many people are very good at it…
      Best,
      Dori Lenz Holte

      • We do a lot of role playing inside of class and i feel like your response helps bring home how important it is to practice being a listner because too many times we want to give advice, epscially as a new SLP.

        Thank you so much
        Sydnee

  26. Hello Dori,

    My name is Michael, and I am a speech therapy student in North Carolina. I agree with your comments about being a good listener, after all that is certainly important to being an effective communicator. I understand that speech therapists have the best intentions when meeting with clients and take charge of the session. It is our deepest desire to provide the best opportunities for people we work with to experience successful and fluent communication. However, we (SLPs) may get in our own way. Therefore, it is important to be reminded that the person we are working with is the expert and must be given the platform to share his/her personal experiences. One of the most important aspects of therapy we are being taught is to include and encourage everyone in the communication circle to be involved with treatment. Have you experienced this with speech therapists, and what are some other qualities that you look for in a speech therapist?

    • Hi Michael. I’ve never felt comfortable assuming anyone is an expert on anything. I think if I were to present myself to a professional speech therapist and they insisted that I was the expert, I’d be very frustrated as I would assume that the speech therapist knew more than me about the subject at hand. (I hear this a lot as a home schooler – “You are the expert on your child!” My kids have proven me wrong so many times :-)) As an individual – deciding I’m an expert in some area might, as you say, get in the way of growth and willingness to listen to other’s opinions. But your client is certainly most knowledgeable about their passions, their fears, their life outside of the clinic setting – and that’s what is important to listen for.

      In answer to your question — The decision to involve your client’s communication circle in their treatment depends on what you are asking them (as listeners) to do. Our involvement in our son’s therapy consistently focused on encouraging him to use speech tools and techniques. This resulted in our son becoming increasingly silend and withdrawn – as that’s a far easier way to not stutter. If you are involving family, teachers, siblings, etc. to be the speech cops, there is a huge risk of silence and withdrawal. If you are educating them on the importance of natural listening and what they can do to keep this child’s talking fun and flowing – then I love the idea of communication circle involvement. Once we changed our focus, our son gradually began to speak up more and re-engage. He’s doing great now, in college, social butterfly, cute girlfriend, and often emerges as a leader in his groups. I’d rather have this than a child who doesn’t stutter. I do believe my book, “Voice Unearthed: Hope, Help and a Wake-Up Call for the Parents of Children Who Stutter” is somewhere in your department – I hope you can unearth it and give it a read. Best of luck to you Michael – always nice to see guys in this field!!
      Dori Lenz Holte

  27. Dori,
    Isn’t it amazing how infrequently we talk about shutting up, and just listening in the field of communication disorders? Yeah, sure we go over that, but we skim over that part and just briefly mention it. This is kind of ridiculous; especially since one of the main environmental factors in children who develop stuttering is feeling rushed when talking. I enjoyed your imagery with Lorraine and being a graduate student in communication disorders, find it helpful. Sometimes when I think about future clients and all that lies ahead in my future I get worried that I will not always know what to do 100%. In reading this, I take away that I can make a difference, even a small one no matter what just by listening! I am curious, what brought upon this reflection and insight, toward speech pathologists and parents of children who stutter?

    Sincerely,
    Mallory Golden

    • Hi Mallory – with stuttering I think that becoming a good natural listener is key. It’s interesting when you realize that most people don’t stutter when they’re alone or talking to a pet. And yet, as you say, listening often gets skimmed over – and it takes practice!! The listener’s role in this challenge is so key.

      You will not always know what to do — as there is still much unknown and disagreement in the field of speech therapy for those who stutter. Keep your mind and eyes open. Keep your eye on the prize – which is a child who talks and engages – not a child who doesn’t stutter.

      What brought on this insight? After five years of therapy, focusing on speech tools and techniques, our son chose silence and withdrawal as his way to not stutter. He was nine. Under the supervision of a retired therapist, we focused instead on keeping him talking and engaged – and this required copious amounts of natural listening. Once we changed our focus, our son gradually began to speak up more and re-engage. He’s doing great now, in college, social butterfly, cute girlfriend, and often emerges as a leader in his groups. I’d rather have this than a child who doesn’t stutter. Thanks for your questions and best wishes…
      Dori Lenz Holte

  28. Hello Dori,

    Thank you for this fantastic article. It reminds me of why I want to be an SLP, and it also reminds me of those fantastic adults who made a difference in my childhood by listening.
    Thanks again,
    K. Mortensen

    • Hi K. Thanks so much for taking the time to read my paper. Real listening doesn’t always come naturally and takes lots of practice! Best wishes to you…
      Dori Lenz Holte

  29. Hi Dori,

    As a current graduate student in the field of speech-language pathology, I loved your insights about the impact listening can have on a child. I think at times we forget the importance of listening and instead get caught up on just talking. The SLP can sit back and just simply listen to what a child has to say. I’m glad you brought up the point that families are busy and the SLP may be the only adult a child has one-on-one interaction with on a regular basis. I think that we as SLPs do not always realize the emotional impact we can have on a child. Obviously targeting speech and language is important as well, but even taking a few minutes out of a therapy session to really listen to what a child wants to talk about is really important. The evidence that you provided stating “having one adult that will listen without passing judgment can be the one most important factor for a kid who is struggling” is so powerful to me. I plan on taking your advice to heart and implementing this mind-set into my current experiences as a future SLP and into my future practice. Thank you so much for the powerful and important insight!

    Brittney

    • Hi Brittney — thanks for your comments and guilty as charged (getting caught up in talking)! Genuine listening takes practice. As I convey in my book, sometimes targeting speech and language can backfire – creating a far greater handicap than the stutter itself. Good listening is far less risky and has been proven to result in good outcomes. Best of luck to you Brittney —
      Dori Lenz Holte

  30. Dori,

    Thank you so much for the awareness you are bringing to the stuttering world. As a future SLP, your post really left an impression with me, especially the following quote: “If a child has a speech therapist, that person is probably one of the few in their life that really has time to listen. Research-based evidence claims that having one adult who will listen without passing judgment can be the one most important factor for a kid who is struggling.”

    One of the main reasons I want to be a speech therapist is because I want to make a difference in someone’s life. Knowing that I could be the one person or factor that can help someone who is struggling solidifies my choice of career and excitement towards this field.

    Thank you so much,

    Kate

    • Hi Kate – thanks for reading through my paper. Professionals and parents dealing with children these days are overwhelmed with information and ways to fix things — and that can be a very very good thing. But sometimes making a real difference just isn’t that complicated! As I always say – we must keep our eye on the prize! Best of luck to you Kate.
      Dori Lenz Holte

  31. Hello Dori,
    First off I want to say that I love the title of your presentation. I really connected with your message and took it to heart. As one of those future speech language pathologists, you showed me a very important opportunity I never really thought about. I do have a golden opportunity of one-on-one uninterrupted time to just listen where there is no assessment, no judgment, just listening. It is important to help our clients feel confident, valued, worthy, and heard. As you point out their voices, what they have to say, are important to us. We can make that difference and be that one person who just listens.
    Thank you,
    Leslie

    • Thanks so much Leslie! Sort of sums up my childhood :-)). I’m so glad you found this story of value – listening is not as easy as it looks!! Best wishes to you…

      Dori Lenz Holte

  32. Dori,

    Thank you so much for this article. In so many areas of my life, I have been the “Lorraine” and had a “Lorraine.” It is really so important in a young person’s life to have someone older validate his/her feelings and make him/her feel worthy of that time. It was a great refresher to read this going into the field of my first semester as a Speech-Language Pathology grad student and really gave me a solid reminder of the potential to be “Lorraine” in this part of my life as well.

    Thank you again,
    Katie

    • Thank you Katie for taking the time to read about Lorraine — best of luck to you in your career…
      Dori Lenz Holte

  33. HI Dori, I thought your presentation was awesome to read coming from a parent whose child stutters. I really appreciate the way you could pull in a story from your childhood. I am currently in my second year of grad school working on my masters in speech language pathology. I think the importance of just listening can help more so then actual therapy in some instances. From your view you say an SLP could be the person who actually listens to child who stutters. Would you agree you could do it the same with an adult who stutters? Thanks again for posting this!
    Jessica

    • Hi Jessica — great question and I give you a resounding YES!! Best of luck to you…
      Dori Lenz Holte

  34. Hello Dori,

    I appreciate your reminder of how a message as basic and important as yours can get lost in the stress and pressure SLPs may feel to FIX a speech problem. As a graduate student in the field, I feel most worried about being able to learn well all I need to know in order to help my clients overcome their specific speech issue. While of course the knowledge we learn in school is of utmost importance for doing our job well, I was heartened by the reminder that simply being a good, nonjudgmental listener can make a difference too. I do feel I am a good listener and keep an open mind, so your story and advice gives me confidence that I will at least be able to do a good job by listening nonjudgmentally and attentively to my clients. Thank you.

    Erica

    • Thank you Erica for taking the time to read my paper. You won’t be able to learn “all you need to know” if you’re treating someone who stutters because why someone stutters and how best to address it is still, generally, a mystery. There are theories and “preliminary” or “promising” research, but still tons of disagreement and controversy. Please remember that as you move ahead — and from a parent’s perspective – first do no harm. Best wishes to you Erica…
      Dori Lenz Holte

  35. Dori,

    Thank you for sharing your story! I definitely agree that listening is very important and yet difficult. Speech therapists have the opportunity to be that one person to always listen without judgement. As a speech pathology graduate student I appreciate your advice! I do have a few questions. What advice do you have for busy parents and teachers with many students to become better listeners? Also, how do you recommend educating parents and teachers that are not familiar with stuttering? I believe that not knowing about stuttering is a problem today.

    Again, thank you for sharing your story!

    -Alyssa

    • Hi Alyssa — thanks for your question — it’s a big one! Parent just need to make it a priority — Turn off the television, turn off the car radio, sit with them before they go to sleep, drop what you’re doing and let them yammer on and on even if it’s something you have no interest in (I had three boys who LOVED Pokemon!) I have a conversation going on right now on my Voice Unearthed Facebook page about recognizing when a child tends to yammer on the most and recreating that as much as possible.

      Teacher, on the other hand, are in a much more difficult environment. Each teacher will be different as to how flexible and accommodating they will be. Parent and speech therapists need to work with the teacher to help them understand the importance of keeping these kids talking and in my opinion, it should never be by encouraging them to use their speech tools in the classroom. Then the teacher and the students all become the speech cops in an already difficult environment. But there are many ways a teacher can accommodate – if they’re willing to change things up a bit. For instance, I knew of one teacher who insisted that her 4th graders make eye contact and say “good morning Mrs. Smith” when they first entered the classroom each day. Can you imagine the child who stutters waking up – that being the first thing on their mind – weighing on them all the way to school – and then not being able to do it? Is it really that important? Is this something the teacher can let go of – or get creative around?

      Parents and teachers need to educate themselves and understand that there is disagreement and harm can be done. There is tons on information out there with varying opinions — The Stuttering Foundation of America, the NSA, American Institute for Stuttering, Stuttering Home Page — I would also recommend that they read my book “Voice Unearthed: Hope, Help, and a Wake-Up Call for the Parents of Children Who Stutter.” I wrote the book I wish I could have read before we stared down this path. In addition to reflecting on our journey, I include an overview of the history of speech therapy, current research, and the areas of disagreement.
      Best wishes to you Alyssa…
      Dori Lenz Holte

  36. Hi Dori,

    Thank you, so much, for another thought-provoking paper.

    One of the basic necessities of human interaction is that our views/opinions are validated by others. This is particularly important during childhood when the majority of our beliefs/attitudes are assembled. Those who stutter are not always afforded this courtesy. When this becomes a regular occurrence, the individual’s self-esteem can be adversely affected.

    I now realise that (in the past – as a PWS) my listening skills were adversely affected by my preoccupation with personal thoughts about how I was going to respond to a conversation/discussion. Instead of paying due respect to the speaker, there were many instances when I discourteously allowed my mind to drift. Rather that listening intently to what he/she was saying, I would selfishly focus on my impending/expected contribution.

    I used to be particularly poor at remembering someone’s identity. While they were introducing themselves, I would be mentally rehearsing how I was going to say my own name and, therefore, pay scant attention to their name.

    Today, I feel that I have developed into a far better listener. As I no longer have any issues with my own speech, I am able to afford the speaker the attention that he/she deserves. Another factor is that, a few years ago, I enrolled for a series of classes that taught effective listening skills.

    Incidentally, I became aware of another interesting factor (in relation to my listening skills) when I began to enjoy greater fluency (post 2000). Having also addressed the tendency to hold back, I developed a burning desire to participate more widely in conversations. In many respects, I had allowed my communication difficulties to impose restrictions upon my social interaction, so I guess it was understandable that I wanted to utilize my new-found freedom at every opportunity. .

    In the beginning, I feel that I interjected far too often when the other person was speaking. It was difficult to curb my enthusiasm; I suppose I was like a child with a new toy. 🙂 As time progressed, I restrained (and subsequently eradicated) this discourteous trait. I still adore talking (and can hold my own in any company), but I now recognise (and respect) that others also wish to contribute. 🙂

    There are still occasions when I get carried away, particularly when I’m talking about things that kindle/stir my passion or interest. 🙂 But I like to think that, in general, I observe (and practise) the appropriate listening skills (and etiquette) that are of such prime importance when others are speaking.

    Dori, I always enjoy your meaningful contributions. Thank you.

    Kindest regards

    Alan

  37. Hi Dori,

    Thank you for your stories and your valuable insight. As a graduate student in speech-language pathology, I have not yet had the opportunity to receive outside parent feedback and opinions as helpful and insightful as yours! Listening is VERY important, and I learn that more and more as my experience grows in providing speech therapy. It is also essential for SLPs to share this with parents who may not be as informed about the importance of listening without passing judgment, so this can carryover into the home to provide children with the optimal environment for communication. As you said, it is also necessary for teachers to do the same in the classroom. In addition to speech therapists, have you shared these stories with any teachers? I think that every teacher, speech therapist, and parent, regardless of their situation, should listen to this advice!!

    Thank you again!
    Rachel

  38. Dori,

    I enjoyed your article! It is true that being a listener is one of the best things a parent, teacher, therapist, friend, family member, etc. can be for a person who stutters. When one thinks about the hectic lives of a parent, it is understandable that it is hard for the parent to stop everything in order to fully listen to their child, let alone a child who stutters that especially needs his/her parents full listening attention. As a student in graduate school studying to be a speech therapist we talk about listening to the client and coming up with ways with the parent to give the child listening time. One way was to set aside 10 minutes a day that the parent would sit down with the child and allow the child to talk about whatever he/she wanted. During this time the child would have mom/dad’s undivided attention and ears. As a parent of a child who stutters what are other ways you have learned work to be a better listener that an SLP can try with other families?

    Sincerely,
    Catherine Curtis

  39. Dori,

    I would first like to say that I was immediately drawn to your title. As a creative writing lover, I thought the title and the content were excellent. Thank you for sharing.

    I am currently in a graduate program for speech pathology. One of my personal goals in becoming a speech pathologist is to approach all clients mindfully and ensure that I am listening and acting without judgment. It was great to hear your take on this as a mother as well. I am inspired to become the person you described in your story, to be remembered as a person that had such a positive impact on a client.

    I would love to hear if you have incorporated any mindfulness techniques into this listening.

    Thank you!
    Kylie

  40. Hi Dori,

    As a future SLP, I want to thank you for sharing your experience, wisdom, and advice. To provide our clients with an opportunity to simply be heard is probably one of the most powerful tools we can bring to the table. I appreciate hearing a personal experience of yours (a refreshing break from all the research I’m currently reading in school), and how powerful it was that Lorraine made you feel “confident, valued, worthy, and heard”. I will keep cousin Lorraine in my tool-box and remember to shut my mouth and
    open my ears.

    Thank you,
    -Emily

  41. As I’ve gotten older I’ve become more and more aware of the importance of listening without judgment. The feeling of having someone that will offer unconditional support is one of the most comforting and empowering feelings I’ve had in my life. It’s so special and all too rare. Thank you for the reminder of how we can be affected, and affect others, in this way.
    Naala