“I just want to stop stuttering”

Hello! I am an SLP graduate student and I have a question on how to approach the statement “I just want to stop stuttering” or the question “So when will I stop stuttering”? These are both said by my young client and I am at a loss for words on what to say. My goal, always, is to make sure my client feels and knows that I am here to help, encourage, and listen.  If I don’t give a direct answer, they will continually ask.  With the client being only six years old, what is the best way to respond? Thank you to you all for the guidance you are giving.

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“I just want to stop stuttering” — 3 Comments

  1. Hi Ashley,

    You ask a great question that speaks to the importance of nurturing a positive relationship with our young clients (or clients of any age). It is totally understandable that a 6-year-old, or any person, for that matter, would want their stuttering to go away. As clinicians, we simply do not know whether stuttering in a 6-year-old will be chronic or not. So, I keep this in mind when I have open, honest, and matter-of-fact conversations with kids about stuttering.

    When a 6-year-old child says, “I just want to stop stuttering,” I might reply, “I’ll bet you do. I want that for you, too. …” When a child asks (sometimes over and over), “So when will I stop stuttering?” I might reply, “I don’t know. …” Then I might ask open-ended questions of the child to unpack the comment or question and discover more about the child’s perceptions, feelings, and attitudes about stuttering and communicating. I will try to maximize my qualities of being a good listener and resist any urge to jump in and “fix” thoughts or feelings. That way, I will have a lot more information and will better know how to respond in the moment.

    Once I know more, I might respond to the child’s comment by saying, “I’m sure you do want to stop stuttering. I don’t know how to make it stop. But I’ll bet you can learn to make things better. Why don’t we work together and see? …” To the child’s question, I might reply, “I don’t know. Maybe you’ll stop stuttering one day. Maybe not. But even if you still stutter sometimes, maybe. …” The key is to prioritize relationship, listen actively, be (gently) honest, and be rigorous about positively supporting a child with what may be a serious problem. I hope this helps. Best wishes,

    Rob Dellinger

    • I appreciate both this question and this response a great deal. This is the part of treatment that we don’t specifically plan to address. Just like any other patient receiving treatment, PWS also wish to discuss their prognosis. Several of my previous clients, who have sought fluency treatment, asked in one way or another when their stuttering would stop and I have never felt confident in my response. I was always cautious to never mislead them by telling them that we could completely resolve their stuttering, but I never wanted for my words to discourage them either. Your response, Rob, is one that I will incorporate into my treatment going forward. By reassuring my clients that we will work together to make things better, I feel like I am both relieving some of their apprehension, while also maintaining my integrity in not setting unrealistic expectations. This response also reassures them that I am as invested as they are and am willing to do the work with them. Thank you for posting this question and for posting this response.

  2. Hi! I am also an SLP graduate student, but I’ve never been asked that question by my child (student) who stutters at my externship. I think that it is a hard question to answer, and there isn’t exactly a right way to answer it, even if you’re super careful about what words you choose.

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