Blog by Voon Pang
Oct. 22, 2013
This year’s International Stuttering Awareness Day theme (People Who Stutter Supporting Each Other) inspired me to read numerous articles by those who stutter and to listen to some classic podcasts on StutterTalk which has lead to this post on how to pick a SLP who understands stuttering. Following on from my last blog entry, where I encouraged parents to seek out early intervention, I hope that some of the tips below resonate with some of you (whether you are a SLP who works with people who stutter or a consumer of stuttering therapy) when looking for a SLP to work with you or your child.
As a person who doesn’t stutter, I would like to acknowledge Dr Walter Manning’s work; as the tips are a summary of an excellent article he wrote in 2004.
Note: Dr Walter Manning is a clinician/person who stutters who has published over 100 articles on stuttering. He is also the author of the textbook, Clinical Decision Making in Fluency Disorders – 3rd Edition (published in 2010).
Attributes and Skills of SLPs to Look Out For
Along with relevant experience, speech language pathologists who have a deep understanding of stuttering are usually more effective. They:
Listen closely to their clients so they understand their story. Listening allows one to go beyond the surface behaviours and begin to understand the client’s interpretations of his or her problem. Listening with empathy facilitates understanding without judgement, which in turn helps develop a working alliance between the clinician and the client.
Are flexible and adjust the content and timing of therapy to meet their client’s needs. They relinquish, to some degree, being the expert and strive to meet the client’s goals rather than their own. Goals may include decreasing the frequency of stuttering; improving communication skills, taking risks and decreasing avoidance behaviour, or reducing the impact stuttering has on one’s life (or to put it in another way, living life fully despite stuttering). Although related, each goal can be weighted differently depending on what the individual wants and needs.
Provide a rational explanation for their clinical decision. Clinicians who understand why treatment works (or why it does not) can troubleshoot and adapt therapy to suit the client’s needs.
Leave the therapy room and clinic and enter the everyday world to walk in the shoes of those they help (this may include being a companion who also stutters). Effective SLPs lead by example and they do what they ask clients to do. This includes taking risks and encouraging clients to do the same as well as being fearless and nurturing fearlessness.
Attend a self-help meeting of people who stutter, such as the annual meeting of the National Stuttering Association, Friends or Speak Easy International. They listen to stories of courage, success, acceptance and support and focus on the content rather than how much stuttering occurs.
Continue to be a student throughout their career. Clinicians who sharpen their knowledge and skills by taking part in continuing education activities ensure that they are up to date with what work works and have other treatment approaches available to them. A clinician with many treatment approaches and associated techniques has more options to choose from when tailoring therapy to suit the individual’s needs.
Speech language pathologists who ‘get’ stuttering combine the science and art of therapy to find the best fit for their clients. Although there is no ‘one size fits all’ when picking a SLP, the general guidelines above can help you become a savvy consumer.
All the best and until next time,
Reference: Manning, W. (2004), “How can you understand? You don’t stutter!” Contemporary Issues In Communication Science and Disorders, 31, 58-68.
Posted Oct. 22, 2013