Acting on the Call for the Better Equipping of Speech-Language Pathologists – Ana Paula Mumy

Ana Paula G. MumyAbout the Author:

Ana Paula G. Souza Mumy, MS, CCC-SLP is a trilingual speech-language pathologist and clinical assistant professor in the Speech-Language-Hearing department at the University of Kansas. She facilitates the clinical team in the Language Acquisition Preschool and the fluency team at the Schiefelbusch clinic. Ana Paula also teaches the graduate Fluency Disorders course at KU and co-leads an adult chapter of the National Stuttering Association. Additionally, she recently co-founded Spero Stuttering, Inc., a nonprofit geared toward advocacy for the stuttering community via the better equipping of SLPs. She is currently pursuing a clinical doctorate in speech-language pathology, with a focus on bilingualism and stuttering. Ana Paula enjoys singing, writing, and traveling with her husband and two kids.

In 2015, I found myself with 15 years of experience as a speech-language pathologist (SLP) and yet felt completely ill-prepared and lost when my son began to stutter. How could I as an SLP be utterly lost when facing my son’s stutter? Change is needed.

Later in 2015, I found myself as an SLP trainee at an overnight camp for nearly 60 youth who stutter. Though I felt completely out of my element and learned more about stuttering in a week than I remember learning in my graduate school Fluency Disorders course, it was a life changing experience both personally and professionally. I left that experience thinking, how can more SLPs experience the magic of a place like this? Change is needed.

At a conference in 2018, I was surrounded by parents of children and teens who stutter, and I realized for the first time how many parents aren’t aware of the limited training SLPs receive to work with people who stutter. I also realized that so many families don’t have access to specialists in the area of stuttering, and they don’t quite know what to look for in a generalist who knows more about stuttering than the average SLP. How can we connect families with SLPs who are knowledgeable and confident working with children who stutter? Change is needed.

By 2019, I had experienced first-hand the power of support organizations for people who stutter both nationally and abroad. I realized that so many people who stutter often go years and years without ever meeting someone else who stutters. They often find themselves alone and isolated from people who truly understand the experience of stuttering. How can we connect families and individuals with more sources of support and community? Change is needed.

Circling back to the preparation of SLPs, in the last year I have learned from recent studies that have been very eye opening (see reference list). I learned that in 1997, 59% of graduate students in the field of speech-language pathology could graduate without any clinical experience in stuttering. There was an increase to 65.1% of graduate students without clinical experience in 2000, but then thankfully a decrease to 31.5% in 2013. Though we see a higher percentage of students graduating with clinical experience, it was reported that clinical hours in the assessment and treatment of fluency disorders are guided by less experienced clinical supervisors. Change is needed.

In terms of coursework, 17.8% of students could graduate without taking any courses exclusively devoted to fluency disorders in 1997. There was an increase to 22.6% of students in 2000, but then a decrease to 14.2% in 2013. This means a lower percentage of students graduating without coursework devoted to fluency disorders, however, 9.6% of programs still reported having no required or elective graduate course in fluency disorders. Thus, the number of programs providing minimal education about fluency disorders remains high. While the 2019 survey of graduate students showed an increase in knowledge and comfort levels by students, they still reported not having adequate knowledge with regard to administering assessment tests or differentiating between various types of treatment. Results showed students still felt uninformed or uncertain about fundamental aspects in fluency disorders.  Change is needed.

In 1997, SLPs indicated that graduate and undergraduate courses mainly stressed theory and treatment was less emphasized. In 2000, there was a reported increase in the number of programs that emphasized clinical application in their graduate courses, rather than focusing primarily on theoretical issues and background. Even with this positive trend, the 2008 study of SLPs showed that 50.8% of SLPs could not differentiate between the two main approaches to stuttering therapy and 46.5% were not comfortable working with children who stutter. Let that sink in…nearly half of the SLPs surveyed were not equipped to work with people who stutter. Additionally, 66.4% did not use attitude scales to assess stuttering, which means a large focus on the behavioral aspects of stuttering while ignoring the affective and cognitive aspects of stuttering as well as its impact on the individual. Change is needed.

In summary, even with many years of experience, studies show that stuttering is a low preference disorder among SLPs and that a vast number of SLPs feel inadequate and uncomfortable treating stuttering.

CHANGE. IS. NEEDED.

All these studies point to a call for the better equipping of graduate students and speech-language pathologists, and so in 2020, a nonprofit organization, Spero Stuttering, Inc., was born! Our vision is to help, empower, and advocate for the stuttering community and their families by equipping those who work with people who stutter. Our heart is to change the reality that many SLPs are ill-equipped and unprepared to work with stuttering.

We seek to encourage and recruit practicing SLPs to obtain more training in the area of fluency disorders by providing guidance, stipends, and recognition for SLP training and hands-on traineeship experiences that promote a philosophy of treatment that seeks to see people who stutter and their families find connection and resources, discover their authentic voices and self-acceptance, and communicate effectively in their everyday lives.

We developed the Ally of StutteringTM Seal to recognize SLPs who are committed to prioritize stuttering as an area of professional growth and who are involved in the stuttering community. The seal is an accessible training path for the generalist SLP to learn more about stuttering, people who stutter, as well as research-based and holistic therapy approaches. It demonstrates that the SLP holding the seal has a special interest in stuttering and has received intentional training beyond graduate school. The seal also indicates that the Ally of StutteringTM SLP is committed to ongoing training and professional development in the area of fluency disorders at regular intervals.

Furthermore, this allows us to connect families and individuals with SLPs with more training and experience, particularly when a specialist is not readily accessible. It is important to note that the seal does not endorse or guarantee the quality of services provided by that Ally of StutteringTM. It is still up to the individual or family seeking treatment to determine if the SLP is a good fit, but we believe there is value in families knowing if their SLP has more training in the area of fluency disorders than the average SLP, since our Certificate of Clinical Competence doesn’t indicate preparedness to work with people who stutter. Our scope of practice in the field of speech-language pathology is simply too large, yet our scope of competence is much narrower. SLPs must recognize this gap, actively seek to learn more, and do no harm in the process!

We now have a growing number of Ally of StutteringTM SLPs (in 25 different states!) who are committed to improved quality of services through more specialized training and engagement in the stuttering community! We have awarded graduate research scholarships for minority students studying fluency disorders as well as Continuing Education and Traineeship (CEAT) stipends for SLPs to obtain more training. With the help of key corporate sponsors (Stuttering Therapy Resources, The Informed SLP, SLP Nerdcast, Northern Speech Services, Change & Impact, Oficina de Fluência, WorkReady Texas, and Higginbotham), we also put on the Strides for Stuttering Virtual 5K Fun Walk/Run fundraiser where more than 70 people participated nationwide, helping us raise funds for this important work. 

On a personal note, my son’s stutter eventually resolved, but stuttering left an imprint on my heart, and I have become passionate about serving people who stutter. We hope we can fuel more passion among practicing SLPs, particularly school-based SLPs, equipping them to work with people who stutter with confidence and effectiveness!

 

References

Mallard, A., Gardner, L., & Downey, C. (1988). Clinical training in stuttering for school clinicians. Journal of Fluency Disorders, 13(4), 253-259.

Santus, N., Tellis, G., & Kong, F. (2019). Are graduate students receiving adequate education and training in fluency disorders? Clinical Archives of Communication Disorders, 4(3), 236-251.

Steyl, N. A., Klein, J. F., Howell, M. L., & Dalton, J. C. (2016). Increasing knowledge and skills of graduate students in a fluency disorders course. Contemporary Issues in Communication Science and Disorders, 43, 164-173.

Tellis, G., & Barone, N. (2011). Results of a nationwide study: Are clinicians prepared to treat stuttering? Pennsylvania Speech-Language and Hearing Association (PSHA) Convention, Pittsburgh, PA. 

Tellis, G., Bressler, L., & Emerick, K. (2008). An exploration of clinicians views about assessment and treatment of stuttering. Perspectives on Fluency and Fluency Disorders, 18(1), 16-23.

Yaruss, J. S., Coleman, C. E., & Quesal, R. W. (2012). Stuttering in school-age children: A comprehensive approach to treatment. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 43(4), 536-548.

Yaruss, J. S., Lee, J., Kikani, K. B., Leslie, P., Herring, C., Ramachandar, S., Tichenor, S., Quesal, R. W., & McNeil, M. R. (2017). Update on didactic and clinical education in Fluency Disorders: 2013–2014. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 26(1), 124-137.

Yaruss, J. S. & Quesal, R. W. (2002). Academic and clinical education in fluency disorders: An update. Journal of Fluency Disorders, 27(1), 43-63.

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Comments

Acting on the Call for the Better Equipping of Speech-Language Pathologists – Ana Paula Mumy — 47 Comments

    • Daniele, you are right, it’s very unfortunate. That is why I am so thankful for people like you and others who invest in the training of graduate students by being willing to share your story. I know that my students have gleaned SO MUCH from hearing the stories of people who stutter and getting an insider glimpse into their lived experiences. Thank you for participating in the “Stuttering Café” at the University of Kansas as I teach and train future SLPs!
      Ana Paula

  1. Hi Ana,

    I enjoyed reading your paper. As an aspiring SLP in undergrad, I find this encouraging. It’s amazing that you co-founded Spero Stuttering, Inc to help SLPs further their knowledge in stuttering and have the Ally of Stuttering Seal to help direct families to SLPs who are committed to learning more about stuttering and being involved in the stuttering community. I agree with you when you say that the scope of practice for an SLP is too large and yet the scope of competence is narrow. I applaud the work that you are doing to help bridge the gap between SLPs and their confidence and knowledge with stuttering.

    • Ashlynn, it’s so encouraging to see undergraduate students already interested in stuttering and eager to learn more! Thank you for your encouragement!

      Ana Paula

  2. Hello Ana,
    As a SLP undergraduate I feel inspired to destroy that trend. As SLPs we should be suitable to provide the best service for any one who seeks it. I’ve known of this idea of SLPs not feeling comfortable treating those who stutter, but reading this paper made me realize how big of an issue it is, and how I can begin my journey to not fall in that category. As well as make sure my peers or others don’t either. Thank you!
    Carlos

    • Carlos, I’m so glad you feel inspired! It’s encouraging to see undergraduate students already interested in stuttering and eager to learn more. Thank you!

      Ana Paula

  3. You are doing such good work! As you well know, I am passionate about helping clinicians understand stuttering so that speech therapy (if one chooses to engage in therapy) is time well spent, for both clinician and client.

    Graduate students often have never worked with, or even met, a person who stutters. Sometimes students may go into the therapy room believing and expecting that their efforts will “fix” the client’s stuttering.

    Your efforts are paving the way for students and young SLPs to appreciate that fluency may not be the goal, but that acceptance and being true to self may be the real goal.

    And the therapist may be able to help the client see that there are other reasons to seek therapy, not just to try and become fluent.

    Pam

    • Absolutely, Pam! I feel so fortunate to be in a position to teach and curb the historical trend. Thank you for all you do to help students along on their journeys as they seek to understand stuttering!

      Ana Paula

  4. Prior to reading this article, I had no idea about how few opportunities there were for graduate students in speech-language pathology to learn about fluency disorders and how to work with patients who have these disorders. I was extremely surprised to see the statistics behind this trend.

    I’m also glad to see that the nonprofit Spero Stuttering Inc. is helping speech-language pathologists be more prepared to help people with fluency disorders and their families. It’s really great that there’s work being done to improve competency when working with fluency disorders.

    In terms of topics that I am wondering about, it was mentioned that there were some graduate programs in speech-language pathology that did not have any required or elective courses in fluency disorders. There was also a percentage of speech-language pathology students who did not have clinical experience with fluency disorders.

    Could there any potential reasons why these trends exist? It would be good if there are ways to remedy these trends occurring with graduate programs and their students, in addition to the work currently being done with practicing speech-language pathologists.

    • Arianne, you pose BIG questions! Part of it is due to ASHA regulations that no longer require clinical hours in stuttering treatment prior to graduation, and this is largely due to the fact that university clinics sometimes have limited access to clients who stutter. There are also not enough clinical supervisors who have expertise in stuttering, so university clinics are not necessarily pursuing reaching out to the stuttering community. Coursework requirements also vary, and due to faculty availability, expertise, and individual program requirements that vary, sometimes stuttering is lumped in with other coursework or taught in “mini” semesters. There are no easy systemic solutions. That is why Spero Stuttering is providing stipend incentives and encouraging more SLPs, many of which are or will become instructors and/or clinical supervisors in university settings, to obtain more training and become better equipped to train graduate students in the area of stuttering (fluency disorders).

      Ana Paula

  5. Also, when students graduate and work with caseloads that are primarily artic & language, that’s where they’ll focus their continuing education (thus falling further behind in fluency). Sometimes I imagine myself being assigned a dysphagia client and wondering what I would do, given that I haven’t updated my knowledge in that area since my grad school days back in the Pleistocene era. The thought is overwhelming. I would be desperate for an ally of some sort. It’s a great thing you’re doing.

    • Yes, exactly Dale! We feel SLPs need stipend incentives to invest in training that they may likely put off or dismiss since their caseloads are largely made up of students with other communication needs. We need more Allies, and I am so appreciative of your support of Spero’s mission!

      Ana Paula

  6. Hello Ana!

    My name is Sophia H. and I am an undergrad student studying to become an SLP. Reading your paper was remarkable, as it sheds light on how many SLPs are lacking efficient training to help people who stutter.

    I appreciate the message and word choice behind the Ally of StutteringTM Seal. Stuttering can oftentimes be treated as a disorder or error in need of fixing, and this can cause the client to feel alienated, insecure, and further harm their self-esteem. As clinicians, we need to practice the mantra “Do No Harm,” and one of the ways we can implement this is by choosing words that empower our clients, such as being an Ally of StutteringTM rather than a “curer” or “fixer.”

    A question I have for you is, how can I as an undergraduate student help advocate for better, more informed stuttering coursework? Although I do not have as much say as a faculty member or board member, I do want to advocate for thorough stuttering coursework, as it is imperative that we, as SLPs, train our very best to help all our clients including those with stutters.

    Thank you, and have a great day!

    Sophia H.

    • Sophia, you ask a great question but I’m afraid I don’t have a good answer! One possibility would be to share this article and Spero’s initiative to incentivize more training with any academic instructors, clinical supervisors, and frontline clinicians (school-based SLPs) you know.

      I believe the best thing you can do now is exactly what you’re already doing…engaging in conferences like these!

      Ana Paula

  7. hello Ana,
    it was great reading your story and how you realized there was a change needed in the SLP community. i am currently in my undergrad into persuing a career as an SLP and I was wondering if you feel as if there are ways students could bring awareness into this matter and in what ways could we better support the stuttering community?

    • Thank you for reading! I believe one way to possibly bring awareness would be to share this article and Spero’s initiative to incentivize more training with any academic instructors, clinical supervisors, and frontline clinicians (school-based SLPs) you know.

      And one of the best things you can do now is exactly what you’re already doing…engaging in conferences like these!

      Ana Paula

  8. Hi Ana,

    Thank you so much for your words! As a student pursuing a career as an SLP, I was so surprised by the statistics you reported.

    What additional recommendations do you have (besides getting involved with Spero (: ) for students or new clinicians who are hoping to gain more experience with clients who stutter? How can practicing SLPs gain more experience working with this population even if PWS make up extremely small percentages of (or are simply not present on) their caseloads?

    A last question for you — having been through the graduate school process yourself, what are some topics or points that an ideal class on stuttering or fluency disorders would cover in your eyes? Courses in general often focus on the theory itself, as you mentioned, so what can we do in the classroom when we don’t have access to clients or a clinic that will still work to better us in preparation for working with clients who stutter?

    • Hi Nicki,

      As a student, if you’re looking for more exposure (outside of clinical hours through your university), I would suggest going to a conference (e.g., FRIENDS, NSA). It’s a great opportunity to engage with people who stutter, hear their stories, including listening to parent and family member experiences too. For practicing SLPs, I would recommend the same to get connected with the stuttering community. Another great way to reach out to the stuttering community is to become a chapter leader with the NSA. Both the NSA and FRIENDS are also offering lots of live sessions that allow people to connect.

      When I teach my Fluency Disorders course, I try to bring in several hands-on opportunities to engage with people who stutter. The most beneficial learning activity I created is what I call the “Stuttering Café.” My students get to listen to the stories of various people who stutter, and they are able to learn about so many aspects of the lived experience of stuttering that I could never teach from a textbook! My graduate students have LOVED the Stuttering Café talks 🙂

      We also watch the amazing documentary film, WHEN I STUTTER, which is a great educational and teaching tool. I also have my students engage with a couple of YouTube videos that allow them to see how stuttering is portrayed in the media. Another helpful assignment has been reading the book “Paperboy,” which can be used in therapy or in a “book club” format (we actually developed a book club guide for Paperboy that is available for free download on the Stuttering Foundation website). We then engage with the author, Vince Vawter, once students have read his book. They also do what I call a “Treatment Lab” where they watch a variety of videos of therapy in action, listen to select podcasts related to treatment (e.g., on StutterTalk), and read select articles related to treatment. These are just some examples of how I attempt to make my course interactive and relevant, particularly since only some get an opportunity to work with clients who stutter while in graduate school.

      I hope this answers some of your questions!

      Ana Paula

  9. Hi Ana,
    I’m currently in my 2nd year of grad school and was shocked to see how many programs don’t require fluency classes. As a future school based SLP, what are some key things to look for when registering for a fluency CEU course? Are some courses better than others?

    • Hi Emily,

      I would say you should look for individuals who understand the multifactorial nature of stuttering, who use a holistic approach to stuttering treatment, and who are not hyper focused on addressing the behavioral aspects of stuttering. I would look for courses that reinforce a philosophy of treatment that seeks to see people who stutter and their families find connection and resources, discover their authentic voices and self-acceptance, and communicate effectively in their everyday lives, with or without stuttering. CEU courses aimed at counseling skills, cognitive restructuring, etc. are also very beneficial since we generally don’t get enough training in these areas. Hope this helps!

      Ana Paula

  10. Hi Ana,

    Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts, research, and data regarding the limited prioritization of stuttering education in various communication sciences and disorders grad programs.

    I’m a post baccalaureate student studying to be a SLP and I found it absolutely shocking that any programs exist in which a student could graduate with absolutely zero courses focused on fluency. I found this particularly alarming considering the amount of aspiring SLPs who aim to work in a school setting. Certainly they will encounter students on their caseload who require (and deserve!) a speech therapist with the appropriate training to best support their needs.

    It was wonderful learning more about your work with Spero and the Ally of Stuttering Seal. It is absolutely something I’m keeping in mind to pursue as a next step of my education following grad school. I’m curious, you mentioned earlier in your article that you spent time as an SLP trainee at an overnight camp for ~60 children who stutter and had such an impactful experience. Are you able to share more information on this program? I know this type of experience might have been affected by the challenges of COVID-19, but if the organization that ran it is still providing a similar experience for children who stutter, I’d definitely be interested in the opportunity if it presents itself in the future.

    Thank you in advance for your time and thoughts!

    Bree

  11. This is so cool. I am a second year graduate student and really excited by the prospect of getting additional continuing education in stuttering. I think its such a valuable resource for parents and clinicians. I’ve added the Spero Stuttering site to my list of clinical resources. I think our field is so broad it makes sense why there is limited education, clinical experiences, and subsequent comfort levels with stuttering. But that is not an excuse and I am really glad to see a program in place to rectify these shortcomings. Thank you for sharing!

  12. Hi Ana,
    Wow, I had no idea there was such a lack of education to SLPs in this topic. I am currently completing my undergrad and have fell in love with my fluency disorders course! I am so happy that there will be more opportunities to continue my education in this area of the field. What are some ways that students can better educated themselves on this topic? I look forward to your response and thank you for sharing!

    • Hi Emma,

      How wonderful that passion for stuttering has been sparked already at the undergraduate level for you…I don’t believe that is common! I believe the best thing you can do as a student is exactly what you’re already doing…engaging in conferences like these! I would also encourage you to continue reading and listening to the stories of people who stutter. There are wonderful podcasts, books, and videos of people who stutter sharing their stories, and it’s so important to LISTEN to their lived experiences. If you want specific recommendations, feel free to reach me directly (info@sperostuttering.org).

      Ana Paula

  13. Hi Ana,

    Thank you for sharing this article. I had no idea that some SLPs can join the workforce without having taken a course on fluency disorders! I am currently an undergraduate student taking a fluency class. At the beginning of the semester, my professor told us that 46% of SLPs feel uncomfortable treating fluency disorders. I imagine the lack of preparation in some graduate programs has contributed to that statistic. In regard to the lack of education some graduate students face, do you happen to know if there are any advocacy efforts to require graduate schools to provide experience learning about/treating fluency disorders prior to graduation? It is so unfortunate for both clinicians and our future clients to not have a baseline requirement of proficiency in treating fluency disorders among all SLPs.

    • Analiese,

      You pose a good question! Part of the problem is due to ASHA regulations that no longer require clinical hours in stuttering treatment prior to graduation, and this is largely due to the fact that university clinics sometimes have limited access to clients who stutter. There are also not enough clinical supervisors who have expertise in stuttering, so university clinics are not necessarily pursuing reaching out to the stuttering community. Coursework requirements also vary, and due to faculty availability, expertise, and individual program requirements that vary, sometimes stuttering is lumped in with other coursework or taught in “mini” semesters. There are no easy systemic solutions. That is why Spero Stuttering is advocating by providing stipend incentives and encouraging more SLPs, many of which are or will become instructors and/or clinical supervisors in university settings, to obtain more training and become better equipped to train graduate students in the area of stuttering (fluency disorders). We also prioritize assisting school-based SLPs who are frontline clinicians and often have limited budgets available for specialized continuing education. There are others promoting similar things, for example, the Transcending Stuttering cohort model, where SLPs, instructors, and clinical educators are taking part in a unique training experience. Camp Shout Out has a training component where SLPs and graduate students can participate as “trainees” in a very hands-on way. The training is very comprehensive and real-world. So I see many advocacy efforts and training opportunities that are available during or post graduate school. Hope this somewhat answers your question!

      Ana Paula

      • Another example is the amazing work being done at the Michael & Tami Lang Stuttering Institute at UT Austin. They train both undergraduate and graduate students by providing experiential learning opportunities, and they also offer a Lang Stuttering Institute certificate for future fluency specialists.

  14. Hi Ana, I enjoyed reading what you shared. I am an undergraduate student studying to become a speech-language pathologist. Looking at the statistics that you shared, I am shocked that we don’t have much training and experience in fluency disorders. What are some suggestions that can prepare us more to help clients who stutter?

    • Thank you for reading! As a student, if you’re looking for more exposure (outside of clinical hours through your university), I would suggest going to an in-person conference (e.g., FRIENDS, NSA) in addition to conferences like these. It’s a great opportunity to engage with people who stutter, hear their stories, including listening to parent and family member experiences too. Another great way to be connected to the stuttering community is to become a chapter leader with the NSA or just become involved with a local NSA chapter. Both the NSA and FRIENDS are also offering lots of live virtual sessions that allow people to connect.

      I would also encourage you to continue reading and listening to the stories of people who stutter. There are wonderful podcasts, books, and videos of people who stutter sharing their stories, and it’s so important to LISTEN to their lived experiences. If you want specific recommendations, feel free to reach me directly (info@sperostuttering.org).

      Ana Paula

  15. Hi Ana,

    Thank you for sharing! As an undergraduate student in the field of Speech Pathology, I knew there was a hesitancy for SLPs to take clients who stutter, but I never realized the statistics to prove this were so high! The lack of education in future SLP’s studies is concerning not only for people who stutter, but also speech therapists. It is so inspiring that you saw an issue in the community and took action by forming the Ally of Stuttering seal! In most posts I have read, it seems that isolation is a big part of the emotions involved with stuttering, as many children who stutter don’t meet other people who stutter until later in life. I can imagine how exciting it is for a person who stutters to see the seal and know they have someone who is passionate about helping them, however that may be!

    Virginia

  16. Hi Ana,

    I am currently a graduate student studying speech-language pathology. I found your article to be extremely interesting. It is inspiring that you used your personal experience to create Spero Stuttering and the Ally of Stuttering Seal as a resource for families. Prior to reading your article I did not realize the lack of resources for SLPs to gain more knowledge and training for treating fluency disorders. I now realize how important it is to spread awareness for SLPs to gain more knowledge to properly treat people who stutter.

  17. As an SLP graduate student, I am grateful for the fluency course I am currently taking and for the clinical experiences I have had thus far with children who stutter and adults who stutter. Thank you for your article; I enjoyed reading it. I also look forward to utilizing your program as part of my future continuing education!

    I do have one question: Does Spero Stuttering include training for SLPs that helps empower them to educate and communicate with teachers who may have students who stutter in their classroom? More specifically, is there one specific strategy that you have found, or a colleague has found, to be helpful when striving to help teachers understand the proper way to speak and listen to their students that stutter?
    Thanks!

    • Hi Paige,

      Great question! I am currently developing an intensive training course for SLPs that Spero will offer which would definitely include the teacher awareness and education component, but currently, we provide stipends for SLPs to obtaining training through multiple avenues or continuing education providers that already have courses in place.

      As to helping teachers, the first component is understanding what stuttering is and what stuttering is NOT. For example, I often encourage my clients to write an email or a letter to their teachers disclosing that they stutter, providing brief facts about stuttering, explaining what the teacher might hear or see for that particular child (so they are not shocked or taken by surprise), and expressing what is helpful/not helpful to the child. I guide the child through this process, but I let them decide how much and what specifically they want to share with their teacher(s). The NSA and the Stuttering Foundation also have downloadable resources for sharing with teachers.

      Another important aspect of teacher education is how they can ‘make space’ and ‘hold space’ for children who stutter to share openly, participate in discussions, etc. For example, helping a teacher become alert to interruptions taking place and saying, “I’m listening for Johnny’s response right now…” or “I believe Johnny has something to share…” This fosters a communicative environment in the classroom that communicates that everyone’s voice matters. Hope this helps!

      Ana Paula

  18. Ana Paula,
    Thank you for this article and all the work you’ve done for this community! I love that you created an organization to encourage SLPs to obtain more education in the treatment of stuttering. I can’t believe that nearly 10% of graduate programs don’t have any fluency courses (not even elective fluency courses??!). I am lucky to be able to take my fluency disorders course from a professor who has had a stutter since childhood and a teaching assistant who acquired a stutter secondary to a TBI.

    One of the activities that I have enjoyed so far in my class was the experience of pseudostuttering. We were assigned to spend a day pseudostuttering to better understand the experience of stuttering. I have a pretty good ability to mimic others, so in preparation for the activity (and to try to sound as natural/”real” as possible), I turned off my camera and microphone during class and mimicked the speech of my professor. Beyond helping my pseudostuttering potentially sound more like real stuttering, it helped me better understand the kind of tension that can come along with having a stutter. It’s not JUST the frustration of not being able to get out your words. It’s not JUST the embarrassment or fear related to how others might react. No, there’s even more. Stuttering can be downright physically uncomfortable! I’m grateful that I am able to take courses from a professor who stutters. It has REALLY changed my perspective on what it might be like to be a person who stutters. I actually didn’t have the courage to pseudostutter in public with someone I didn’t know because I was so nervous about how others would react. Instead, I stuck with pseudostuttering with my girlfriend in the comfort of my home.

    Again, thanks for writing this and being such an advocate for people who stutter. Through your organization, is there an option for a PWS who may not know another PWS to connect with someone who stutters? I’m not sure if that would work within your organization, but I think that would likely be really beneficial for members of the stuttering community who feel isolated and alone.

    • I’m so glad your course is being taught by someone who understands stuttering! I also use a pseudostuttering assignment in my course, and when my students understand the rationale behind it, they’re very receptive to it and learn a lot from the experience.

      As to Spero providing opportunities for people who stutter to connect, we don’t host meet-ups of any kind, but there are several organizations that do offer meet-ups or support groups, some in-person, some virtual (e.g., NSA, FRIENDS, World Stuttering Network, just to name a few), so we steer them in the right direction when anyone inquires!

      Ana Paula

  19. Hello!

    I 100% agree with you that change is needed! I had a similar experience when I attended the National Stuttering Association conference for the first time a few years ago with my husband who is a PWS. When I entered that world, I felt I was the 1% that differed in the stuttering world created at the NSA conference. I was able to catch a small glimpse of how my husband feels on a regular basis when talking to others. I know I am fortunate to have the experience with PWS that I do, but I know of some SLPs whose first exposure to a PWS is when they are placed on their caseload. Because of this, I hope it makes me a better SLP. However, it does concern me that some SLPs are often unsure of how to effectively treat a PWS. I am so lucky to have an amazing course instructor for my fluency disorder class in graduate school who is teaching us how to not only treat the disorder but treat the person. In addition, I believe she is teaching us to not fear when these patients are put on our caseload. However, I know that some graduate programs are not as lucky. I was thrilled to learn about Ally of Stuttering TM because this is desperately needed in this field!

    – Kacie H.

    • Hi Kacie,

      Thank you for your feedback and sharing a bit of your story! I’m so glad you’re being taught by someone who understands the stuttering experience, and how amazing that you have first-hand experience as the spouse of someone who stutters. I hope you’ll become an Ally of Stuttering when you complete graduate school!

      Ana Paula

  20. Hi Ana,

    Thank you for being an advocate and sharing your experience! I feel that stuttering is not the only area in which SLPs are not always prepared. In fact, you can become “competent” in the big nine areas by taking graduate courses and do not necessarily have to get clinic hours in each of the areas.

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