This past Monday I had the honor of doing a Skype session with Communication Disorders graduate students from City University New York (CUNY). They were truly inspiring and I thank them and their professor, Peggy Connor, for inviting me. They had all read my book and had great questions and insights.
You know how this goes. The minute you hang up you think of all the things you wished you had said. Oh, but I do have a blog site — yippee for me!
I keep thinking about their question around the parent who desperately wants their child to get beyond this. We were (still are to be honest!) those parents. No one ever explained to us the risk of increased silence and disengagement — especially when the speech tools are meant to do just the opposite and appear to do that successfully within the clinic setting. It took way too long for us to get to the point of realizing that his progression in the wrong direction might be connected to the focus of therapy — i.e. making fewer speech errors. I believe most parents will fully understand this if it is explained to them in a respectful and thoughtful way. They may still insist on an approach that lends itself to making the behavior stop, but at least their flags will raise a lot sooner in the journey and less damage will be done.
I don’t blame his speech therapy for the fact that he stutters, but I do believe that therapy focused on making fewer speech errors played a huge role in the intensity of his struggle today. I don’t blame speech therapists either — they were doing what they had been taught to do, what is considered “evidence-based”, and what appears to work when the child is with them.
And yet I didn’t have to dig too deep to find professionals and people who stutter express serious concern over this type of therapy. I am completely befuddled as to why ASHA isn’t doing more to develop options that do not carry the inherent risk of increased anxiety, withdrawal, and silence for children.
Okay, I feel much better now. I was so honored to be able to connect with the graduate students at CUNY on this topic. Great group of future speech therapists — not because they agreed with my opinions (they may or may not have), but because they listened. They valued a parent’s perspective and they will consider this perspective as they proceed in their chosen field.
Happy Mother’s Day to me because that was the best gift I could have ever received! Now if I can just get that kid to clean his room, my Mother’s Day weekend (yes, I make it the entire weekend) will be complete. And it’s never my birthday — it’s my birthweek. Happy Mother’s Day to all of you moms too!
Doreen (Dori) Lenz Holte
Author of Voice Unearthed: Hope, Help, and a Wake-Up Call for the Parents of Children Who Stutter