I was finally able to make time to listen to the first of four (so far) StutterTalk podcasts where Peter Reitzes questions whether SLPS should even treat stuttering. The first episode, #629 (http://stuttertalk.com/should-speech-language-pathologists-treat-people-who-stutter-part-one-with-craig-coleman-ep-629/) is with Craig Coleman, an assistant professor at Marshall University, a Board-Certified Specialist in Fluency Disorders, and currently serving as coordinator of ASHA SIG 4 (Fluency). It was encouraging to hear these leaders in the field acknowledge the dire shortcomings of current speech therapy for children. Reitzes goes as far as to suggest that SLPs “recuse themselves, regroup, and come up with something much better.” He goes on to say, “As a field, we need to wave the white flag. We either stop doing this work or we start doing it a lot better. The house is on fire and we’re not smelling the smoke.” Now there’s some truth! Reitzes makes strong statements challenging the field around therapy for children who stutter in the 629th episode of Stuttertalk including:

– The field needs to consider asking forgiveness of the stuttering community.

– The greatest problem we face is that “not stuttering” is the goal of treatment.

– (Coleman) Even if an SLP includes counseling, working on fluency with children can undo that work.

– For most speech therapists, it’s all about the fluency.

– Most speech therapists do not feel trained or equipped to do counseling.

– Stuttering is the condition that SLPs find the least comfortable to work with.

– Researchers have found that training around stuttering in graduate school programs is insufficient or nonexistent. The need for better training is dire.

– Far less than 1% of SLPs are board certified to treat stuttering.

Reitzes says this all dawned on him when another speech therapist spoke of doing “sneak attacks” in the classroom to make sure her charges were using their strategies. He found this appalling and was angry at himself and others when no one spoke up. I’m rather curious as to why this all didn’t dawn on him when he did a “fact checking” episode 601 (http://stuttertalk.com/?s=Voice+Unearthed) on my book, Voice Unearthed: Hope, Help, and a Wake-Up Call for the Children Who Stutter last year. I make these exact points in the book except the last one, which I made when he interviewed me after his “fact checking” episode #602 (http://stuttertalk.com/you-dont-need-to-be-fluent-ep-602/). During these podcasts, Reitzes was supportive when I spoke from a parent’s perspective but attempted to discredit much of my research and my conclusions that the field of speech therapy was doing more harm than good for children and in a dire need of change. And now, one year later, he is promoting these ideas as his own conclusions.

Don’t get me wrong – I am beyond thrilled that a person who has Reitzes’ outreach and level of influence is publicly pointing out these shortcomings — but why did it take this long? How many children have been treated by well-intentioned but completely clueless speech therapists who have done far more harm than good since my book came out in 2011? Does a parent’s voice really carry that little value to many of the leaders in this field?

Thank God times are a’changing and in spite of the silence on behalf of most (not all) leaders in the field, parents are finding their voices and having the courage to turn their backs on therapy that just doesn’t feel right, for whatever reason. I am grateful to give those parents a place to muck their way through this uncertain journey on the Voice Unearthed Facebook group because trust me, for a parent, it’s really scary to follow your gut when it has no place to go.

I hope the powers-that-be are hearing you Peter, and that they will start working towards creating a safer option for supporting children who stutter. Thank you for having the courage to say the things you’re saying, no matter the origins or impetus. The need is dire and long overdue.