I recently attended a great seminar on fluency disorders- specifically fluency disorders in children. (A fluency disorder, or stuttering, occurs when there is an interruption in the flow of speaking. This may be characterized by repetition of sounds, syllables, or words during speech. A person who stutters may also experience prolongations of sounds or blocks of airflow or voicing during speech.) What made this seminar so unique was that it was hosted by adults who stutter. Each speaker talked openly and candidly about their experience as a child (and now) adult who stutters. They shared insight on things they wish their therapists (SLPs) and family knew and talked about things they wish people would have done differently. They touched on the emotions of being a person who stutters and also described what worked best for them.
As a pediatric SLP, I often get questions about stuttering from parents who fear that their child may have a disorder. I have encountered parents who express fear, anxiety, concern, worry, and even shame. A diagnosis of a fluency disorder or stuttering is often harder for parents to accept than the child.
There are many emotions associated with stuttering and I found it eye-opening to hear first hand from adults who stutter. Although the speakers from the seminar all received therapy from different SLPs, there was one common thread- they all wanted to be treated as an individual with a difference. Here are a few thoughts that resonated with me:
Stuttering is a characteristic and not something to be ashamed of.
It's a physical difference but does not make you a different or inferior person
It's ok to stutter. It does not mean you are doomed as a communicator
Stuttering can be frustrating. Don't make the child/ person who stutters feel worse. Create a safe space where he/ she can speak and be heard without judgement
It's ok to describe and discuss what is happening. Use the word stutter/ stuttering
Even with preschool children it is ok to say "stutter." This will help to take away the negative connotation of the word
Try not to teach or influence a child that they are only ok if they don't stutter. The goal is to be a confident communicator- whether you stutter or not.
To learn more about risk factors and things you can do to help, click here for resources from The Stuttering Foundation of America. If you think your child is stuttering, contact a speech language pathologist in your area. Need help finding an SLP? Use ASHA ProFind to find a certified SLP near you.