Stuttering doesn’t cause disconnection, shame causes disconnection. What do your children look like when they are most connected? Our boys would immerse themselves… Legos, playing “flood the city” in the huge sandbox, playing Pokemon, reading, building forts, photography, volunteering, writing, planning a trip, Dungeons and Dragons, etc. When I picture Eli engaged in these types of activities versus Eli engaged in special time practicing speech tools, I see two different Elis. One Eli is connected, the other isn’t.
Parents most likely have little control over whether or not their child starts to stutter or continues to stutter into the adult years. At the same time, we can be empowered to maximize connection which goes a long ways towards minimizing the degree of disability this challenge might take on their child’s life. Dr. Brené Brown, licensed social worker and renowned author and speaker helps us to understand the impact of shame and disconnection:
“Nothing silences us more effectively than shame…shame unravels our connection to others…In fact, I often refer to shame as the fear of disconnection – the fear of being perceived as flawed and unworthy of acceptance or belonging. Shame keeps us from telling our own stories and prevents us from listening to others tell their stories. We silence our voices and keep our secrets out of the fear of disconnection.
After years of early childhood therapy focused on gaining fluency, our nine-year old son most often chose silence. When he did talk, he turned his chin to his shoulder and growled in order to get a word out. Choosing silence and twisting one’s neck isn’t stuttering, it’s a by-product of shame.
The goal of eliminating all feelings of shame from a child’s world is unrealistic. The goal of intentionally enhancing their worlds with experiences that increase dignity and pride is not at all unrealistic. Who do they love to hang with? What are they doing when they seem to forget they stutter? Pay attention to what gets them jazzed and make their world as jazzy as you can. (Actually, I recommend doing the same for yourself!!)
Keep them talking and keep talking fun!