Speech therapy and kids

Hello, my name is Rachel Sabotin and I am a student at the University of Akron study Speech Language Pathology. I was wondering if you could share with me what tips you have for working with young children who have a severe stutter and may not want to speak at all. How do you communicate with them in a way that makes them feel comfortable enough to start talking and then from there focus on their stutter? Thanks for your input!

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Speech therapy and kids — 3 Comments

  1. Hello, Rachel. Thank you so much for asking a question to the professional panel. Young children who stutter prominently oftentimes do not have negative coping mechanisms (like the stopping of speaking altogether) unless stuttering is not accepted in their household, they are constantly told to stop stuttering (when we know this is obviously not attainable), or they are told to “slow down” or repeat themselves repetitively (in which case, I don’t blame them for not talking).

    First: Fostering a welcoming, accepting and safe environment in the therapy room from the get go will help the child to feel comfortable and to know that in at least this environment within their life, stuttering is ok.

    Second: Educating the family and those interacting with the child regarding stuttering and the nature of stuttering is very important. Sometimes, people just don’t know- and I try my best to give people grace, and benefit of the doubt when it comes to stuttering and knowledge of stuttering. Even though it is noise to our ears to hear a parent say, “I try to help my child by telling him to slow down”, you and I wouldn’t know anything about stuttering (perhaps) if we weren’t in this field or involved in this field somehow. So, hopefully with some educating on the part of the clinician, and some tips for home/things to also foster this welcoming, safe and acceptance of stuttering in the home environment and other environments with which the child interacts, hopefully this would help the child to know that it’s ok to speak.

    Third: Counseling. While we can’t make the child speak, using techniques to counsel, and harvest love, support and all the things a child needs in a communication environment- hopefully this would help the child to know it’s ok to speak, and it’s ok to stutter.

    Hopefully these generalized suggestions help you to think it the right direction. Thank you for your displayed empathy and your participation in this forum. Be well, and take care.

  2. Hi Rachel-

    Steff has given you a lot of great pointers here, so I’ll just add a bit more.

    I think building the therapeutic relationship is really, really important here. You want your therapy room to be a space in which a child feels safe and comfortable to speak. For some children, this can take time and that’s okay. Increasing speaking comfort (and amount) is really important, functional, and measurable goal.

    Building rapport may mean that you don’t talk about stuttering for a while – and that’s okay. We want to keep in mind that positive experiences talking to someone who is nonjudgmental and truly interested in what the client has to say is so powerful! I like to think of the fact that the more positive experiences a person has talking, the more resilient they may be if/when they encounter a negative experience. Does that make sense?

    Also, you really want to involve your client in the therapeutic process. What do they want to work on; what is important to them; what are their communication goals; etc. By asking these types of questions, we’re really gearing therapy toward what the client wants/needs.

    I think too, it can be helpful to keep in mind that even if you aren’t ‘working on stuttering’ – you really are working on stuttering when you are increasing comfort and confidence with speaking, counseling the client, figuring out what is important, etc. Talking as a whole can be a therapeutic experience for a person who stutters.

    This is just a start – I hope it helps! Please ask more questions as needed.

    Good luck!

  3. Hi Rachel,

    Have you ever read David Shapiro’s personal story entitled “A Way Through the Forest: One Boy’s Story With a Happy Ending”? It’s available here: https://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/kuster/PWSspeak/shapiro.html.

    There is so much you can glean from this story, but it highlights the importance of client-centered treatment – meeting them where they are, empowering them to talk freely, and really listening to them (their interests, wants, desires, needs, aspirations). There is so much value in being heard and understood!

    Ana Paula

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