Goals of stuttering therapy
There are usually two main goals in stuttering therapy for this age group:
- Making talking easier, and
- Developing healthier attitudes and feelings about talking.
Making talking easier is achieved by learning speech tools. These tools help the speaker to produce speech in a different way, such as reducing the amount of tension in the speech system, beginning a sentence with more air, or stuttering in an easier way.
Developing healthier attitudes and feelings about talking is achieved by learning to respond to speaking situations with less anxiety, become more confident in the ability to use speech tools, and use problem solving skills for difficult speaking situations.
Not everyone needs to change how they feel about talking. Many kids and teens are confident and willingly talk to others. For some, however, talking can produce feelings of anxiety or fear, even guilt and shame. Overcoming these negative attitudes and feelings can be just as important as learning to talk more easily.
Talking more fluently is only one part of being a good communicator. Learning to take turns, not interrupt, and using eye contact when speaking are also important communication skills. Sometimes, the harder one tries to use tools and be fluent, the more likely it is he will stutter. Again, it's important to know that if stuttering happens, it's ok and you don't have to be ashamed.
Why children may not use speech tools all the time
For any of us, learning to change the way we talk is very difficult. Think about times you've had to try to slow down or use a different style of speaking, and then consider whether you'd be able to do this in all situations with all listeners!
Being expected to use speech tools consistently can be especially difficult for a child or teen who stutters. Possible reasons she may be unable or unwilling to use her tools include:
- being unsure about how to use her speech tools;
- being excited or rushed;
- feeling tired or sick; or,
- having difficulty with the language demands of the speaking situation, such as having to give an especially long or complex answer.
People who do not stutter usually don't give much attention to how they talk. One example of exactly how difficult making this type of change may be is to practice writing your signature with your opposite hand. After trying to write with the opposite hand, ask yourself:
- How much did you have to think about writing with your other hand?
- Did it feel natural?
- Does your signature look the way it normally would?
We find that writing our signatures with the opposite hand takes a great deal of thought, feels very unnatural because of changes in the angle of the pen or the amount of pressure applied to the paper, and does not look at all like our typical signature.
This is how it feels to change speech: it takes concentration, it feels unnatural, and it sounds different. These are additional reasons someone may hesitate to use their speech tools.
Changes to expect from speech therapy
Speech therapy can be a long-term process. Going to therapy may produce changes in both talking itself and in feelings about talking as the child or teen learns to successfully manage stuttering. As a result of speech therapy, you may notice:
- more fluent speech;
- stuttering with less tension;
- more eye contact;
- volunteering to answer questions rather than only answering when called on;
- contributing ideas during a brainstorming session or conversation;
- talking more with friends and family; or
- changing how and when he talks in other ways.
This material was adapted from Stuttering: Straight Talk for Teachers, by L. Scott, C. Guitar, K. Chmela, & W. Murphy.