Addressing Harm done by former SLPs

Hello All 🙂 I am a senior undergrad student at CSUF. I recently had the opportunity to hear from several adult PWS sharing their experiences. One of the recurrent themes was the negative and harmful experiences endured in school by SLPs. I am curious about what ways clinicians today are addressing this topic if/when it is brought up. 

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Addressing Harm done by former SLPs — 4 Comments

  1. Dear Monica,
    HI! Thank you for asking this question and for being an advocate for your educate and helping us all learn.

    This is an interesting question, and a thoughtful one. The first thing I would say is there are many sides to situation. I’m going to answer this one as PWS and an SLP (as I am both). Is that okay?

    I received speech services at 8 years old. The short story is at the time (in all of my 8 year old wisdom, which is not much), I felt it was not helpful so I quit. Now for many years I said (and this as an adult) “that was bad therapy.” Now, stepping back now I realize there were many factors to my experience:
    1) I was not ready for help.
    2) I did not like being pulled out of class
    3) I did not have a bond with my therapist (because of the above, not her fault)
    4) I felt alone because I knew now one like me so I did not want to talk
    5) I knew nothing about stuttering or therapy

    And many more. So the bottom like is there are many factors that go into moments of therapy. Are there some SLPs who do not to quality therapy for PWS (kids, adolescents, adults)? Yes. Are there many who do great therapy AND the client is not ready for therapy for a variety of reasons? Yes. Are there situations where the client and therapist do not bond or connect for a large RANGE of reasons? Yes.

    I say the above because we have to be really careful with stories we hear, and putting blame on SLPs that we don’t know and situations that we don’t know either and then saying “SLPs did harm.” Also, the field and the way we learn and educate others has changed so much in the past 10-20 years. SLPs today are educated more on treating the whole person, than in the past.

    I’m not saying there are not cases of some SLPs who do harm, of course there are. And, we don’t know the whole story. We are hearing it from one person.

    I heard a quote many years ago. “There are three sides to every story. Yours, mine, and the truth. And the truth lies somewhere between yours and mine.” This simple means there are different perspectives on the same situation, and somewhere within these perspectives is the middle ground for the entire experience.

    To finish here. It seems (from my observations) there are many opportunities today (more than I was student) that are fostering a wholistic approach. Just because I had a not positive experience as kid means every kid my age did and that kids today have poor experiences. My story is just that, my story. My story has many factors that as an adult I need to take ownership of. As an SLP I can see those factors that I missed as a kid. I can also see where the therapist I had as kid may have done some good and may have not helped in ways that are taught now. However, they what was taught then.

    Treatment of anything evolves and changes. 150 years ago we used to drill holes in peoples heads for many sickness. The sickness would stop, but it left people with massive brain damage. We found out, with evolving treatment, that does not work. We learn, we grow, we evolve.

    I hope this helped.
    Be well. Be you.
    With compassion and kindness,

    • Hi Scott,
      Thank you for your thoughtful response. I wasn’t trying to blame anyone. Not the medical profession or SLPs, just trying to find an ethical way to honor someone’s experience. Like you said, their story is their story. I was hoping to learn about how I can validate someone’s feelings in a caring and professional way. I worry that explaining that there are different perspectives on what they experienced or discussing how they, as a child, may have ownership in the situation that they describe as harmful might actually cause more harm. I probably would avoid discussing the whole drilling holes in heads situation with a client but I think that what you’re getting at is that when we know better we do better and I think that’s a great point. Sharing that we are changing as a profession could be a better start. I’m so thankful to you for discussing this with me. It means so much more coming from someone who has experienced both sides.

      Kind Regards,

  2. Dear Monica

    You’ve got so much insight from two different perspectives already in the previous answer! I have nothing more to add except the fact that stuttering is anything but static… stuttering and all things related to it are constantly changing! The PWS grows and evolves, situations change, people around them change, as do interpersonal equations. What has happened in the past, whether it might be perceived as harm or otherwise, is a part of their journey so far. You are starting YOUR journey with the PWS as they are when they met you now, at this moment… a fresh new and hopefully fruitful journey. So shift the focus from addressing or reversing any apparent harm done in the past..just give your best to YOUR journey with the PWS, now and in the future!


    • Hello Pallavi,

      I love the positivity! I will always do my best. I just worry that advising someone to move on and be in the moment could be harmful. I definitely agree that the goal should be being present in the moment and being on the journey with the PWS. I am looking at how to transition to that place without ignoring their experience. Thank you so much for taking the time to lend me some advice and encouragement. I feel that I am in great company here. This is why I love this field so much.

      Kind Regards,