A review of posts from the Voice Unearthed Facebook group reveals a common use of terms that few people question. For example:
- I referred my 7yr old to speech and language
- My son has had his stutter since he was 4 and we have been receiving treatment since he was 5.
- After 7 years of speech therapy with no help or difference at all,
- I’m working on getting her into speech real soon!
- I’ve read that early intervention is always best.
For many of us (including me in my younger days), it didn’t cross our minds to ask, “What do you mean by that? What does that look like?”
These concepts can play out in remarkably different ways. The impact of the choices for support a parent makes can range from very little, to most helpful, to causing life-long limitations, pain and struggle. A parent would never throw their child into a cage of furry animals, without asking “what does that furry animal look like? Can harm be done?” A parent should never engage their child in speech therapy and early intervention without asking the same questions.
Another term thrown freely about is that a child can learn to “manage” their speech. My interpretation of that, in our early days of this journey, was to make them stop stuttering or stutter less, or at least to be in control. Overtime, I’ve come to understand that “managing” speech is much different than “managing” how speech tension impacts a child’s, an adult, or even a parent’s quality of life. Dr. Heather Grossman, American Institute for Stuttering, refers to this as “managing the stuttering gremlins,” the emotions and negative thoughts that lead to limiting engagement and life choices. The stuttering gremlins exist within children and their parents. They create fear, avoidance, sadness, anger, and the tendency for those who stutter and their parents to catastrophize their child’s future.
Many children, especially those who persist, chose the safest, least shameful route to managing their speech and simply speak far less rather than risk disappointing themselves and everyone around them. Jumping into “speech therapy” to learn to “manage” speech can easily backfire – and often does, an outcome shared by many parents within the Voice Unearthed Facebook group.
Don’t be afraid to ask. What does that mean? What does that look like? We must be discerning consumers – our kids’ well-being depends on it.
Keep them talking and keep talking fun!