Proper Responses to a Parent or Guardian

Hello All!

I am currently in my first semester of graduate school, and I am in a stuttering course. I have learned that while you can’t completely “fix” or “get rid of” a stutter per se, you can do different activities that help compensate for it. However, I understand it is sometimes common for a parent or guardian of a child with a stutter to want you, the therapist, to rid them of it completely. What is a good response to this? As firmly just saying “you can’t get rid of a stutter” would probably anger or confuse the parent or guardian. Thank you for your time!

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Proper Responses to a Parent or Guardian — 3 Comments

  1. Nick,
    With the proper caveat that I do not work with children or parents, I may be able to offer a couple of points upon which you may be able to build a response.
    First, there are many instances in all fields of endeavor where people have succeeded with a slight stutter when they can get rid of the underlying fear, shame, guilt, self-downing because they appear different and other unhealthy negative emotions. With a little diligence and persistence with the help of the National Stuttering Association (NSA), American Institute for Stuttering (AIS)Comment , and The Stuttering Foundation of America (SFA) and you can build a list of famous people who stuttered.
    Second, you can build a list and point to vice president Biden, Samuel L. Jackson et al (including me) who have recovered from stuttering as young adults or older adults (like me) in that they can do speaking in public without a serious
    Third, unfortunately, the way to more flowing speech is through acknowledgment of their current dysphoric unhealthy emotions about stuttering and working through these emotions with the help of loving parents and toughening of themselves. Having the parents read my book might help in having them realize that no person has to be defined by his or her stutter.
    If you are still confused about what to do, please send me an email and we will discuss it over Skype or Zoom. Remember every child who stutters and every parent who is concerned are individuals and may require individual presentation.

  2. Hi, Nick,

    The response you give to parents depends on the age of the child and whether or not the stuttering is persistent. For very young children, the outcome is much more likely to be positive with treatment. And, as you’ve probably learned, around 70% of young children who stutter will recover from stuttering within the first year to year and a half following onset. Even when stuttering has been going on for several years, I do not focus on the cure vs. no cure story. I know of people who stutter who have recovered, even after years of stuttering, and others who will persist in stuttering to some degree. As Gunars stated in his response, treating stuttering that is persistent often involves dealing with the negative thoughts and emotions about stuttering, and this often goes a long way toward a person becoming a strong communicator, despite some residual stuttering. I will generally inform parents that I cannot predict the outcome for anyone, but that we know that people who stutter absolutely can develop skills that allow them to become effective communicators.

    Whether working with parents or a client, I am happy for them to set any long range goal that they want, whether it be typical fluency or reduced stuttering. The short terms goals that take them on a path toward recovery are more important as these small steps get the person where they want to go. The end goal often ends up being different than what they initially set.

    Best wishes,

    Lynne Shields

  3. Hi Nick,

    Since I work mostly with school-age children, I’ll focus on this age group. After the preschool years, stuttering is much more likely to be persistent. Understandably, many parents of school-age children just want the problem to go away. Just like children who stutter, their parents may experience unwanted thoughts and feelings associated with stuttering. They may feel guilty about they might have done to cause the problem, and they may worry about their child’s future. Therefore, they may have a hard time realizing and accepting that stuttering cannot be “fixed.” Just as SLPs help older students who stutter learn to manage a potentially chronic problem, we can help parents do the same. While stuttering may persist, children and parents can both learn to reduce the adverse effects of stuttering in their lives. Educating parents about the nature of stuttering, actively listening to their concerns, and involving them in every step of assessment, therapy, and ongoing problem solving are critical. It is a process, and nurturing a positive relationship with all parties over time is key. With our support, parents can become much more accepting of stuttering, and they can be their children’s greatest advocates as they learn to develop their overall communication skills. There is much more to say, but I hope this is a good start. Wishing you the best,

    Rob Dellinger