Chapter 2: ‘What Should We Do?’

The author opens the chapter with describing a trip to a French ice cream shop; she was looking so forward to it, but her stuttering ruined the ice cream. She wanted it in a sugar cone or a waffle cone, but ordered it in a cup because she knew she would likely stutter on the word ‘sugar’ and on ‘waffle’ as well. “The plastic spoon ruins it.” The scene is described so well and I felt such a pang of sorrow for her when I read it.  As she and her parents walk home, she can sense that something is on their minds.  They ask about her day and she answers using as little speech as possible, a coping technique she is using.  “I have taken to starring in my own silent movie…..Having silenced myself, I’m becoming visibly depressed.” As they continue to walk and are nearing home, Katherine asks her parents what they were talking about the other night. They tell her they would like for her to attend speech therapy… a 2-week group session over the summer holiday.  This startles Katherine and makes her feel she has ‘failed’ at growing out of something; she screams and cries and upon doing so, learns that when she is angry her speech is fluent.  She eventually calms down and discusses the situation with her mother.  Her mother says, “But, darling, we really want you to try out this speech therapy course.  Your stammer, I mean your speech…..” The author discusses the negative connotations that the word ‘therapy’ held for her at that time….e.g. “It implies a level of madness, something uncontrollable that needs to be tamed. In my mind it is an accusation, something to be kept secret.”  She also goes on to say the while she is angry, she is also relieved that her mother has put a name to her speech difficulty; “Deep down I am glad that someone has acknowledged that something is happening, that it has a name, that it might have a treatment. Because the silence is the most oppressive thing of all……I am strangling myself to talk… and no one is saying anything about it.” The author then describes her 2-week group therapy experience. She quickly saw the she was the only girl in the group. She describes how very nice the therapist was J. She describes trying hard during therapy but then venting at night by way of screaming at her mother. “The truth is that I don’t want to be part of the freak show.  That is how I see it.”  She and the other students start to progress. “In truth we are all improving in the strange confines of the therapy course. It is easy to improve in the safety of those four walls.” She has developed a bond with her peers; “As the end of the course approaches, that moment we have all longed for, we start to dread going back into the real word.” Katherine is fluent when she finishes the 2-week session. She is proud and so are her parents; “I am completely and utterly fluent…. My parents can’t shut me up.” She felt certain that her stutter was forever gone. Her joy and new-found confidence is short-lived, however.  Two weeks following the course, she feels the stutter returning; “My stutter is more powerful that a few weeks with a kind speech therapist. It is stronger than she is, as stubborn as I am.” She describes what horrible feelings this brings; “My sense of self has been altered. I am an underachiever, a loser, and a disappointment.” She tells how she rebuilds the walls that she had created around her stutter and refuses to let anyone broach the subject; “I can handle my own guilt, but I

am ill-prepared to carry everyone else’s disappointment.”  Katherine then has negative feelings about the therapy course, as she feels it has tricked her, letting her see “… what life would be like if I were normal.”

 

Thoughts on the Chapter:

This chapter covered so much in the way of emotions and coping mechanisms.  During the time when her parents thought Katherine would likely grow out of the stuttering, they dealt with it appropriately, in a manner that was recommended by their pediatrician. The author talks about how many children who stutter do not have this same experience and are at times made to feel guilty about their stuttering.

Parent education is so important. I think that as SLPs we know more about this topic than we give ourselves credit for and what we know seems like common sense. It isn’t. Some parents will self-educate via Googling, etc. but we need to always take advantage of any opportunity to make sure they have correct information and that they feel confident in their knowledge of how to respond when a stuttering episode occurs.

What have your experiences been with parent education regarding fluency disorder?

When I read that Katherine was so relieved when her mother talked about Katherine’s speech problem.. .her ‘stammer’, a question that came to mind was:

When is the right time to directly discuss a child’s ‘bumpy speech’ with them?

Lastly, the author’s description of her first experience with speech therapy was interesting! I am looking forward to reading about her therapy journey and gaining her perspective.

Happy Reading,

Carrie Kaelin, MS-CCC

Brown School

Ahrens Work Transition Program

Early Childhood Diagnostic Center

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8 thoughts on “Chapter 2: ‘What Should We Do?’

  1. Chelsea says:

    I have not received my book yet – but your response to this chapter has me excited to get started. When IS the right time to talk with a child about their stuttering? I have a student that I have treated for stuttering since preschool. SHE initiated the stuttering conversation in preschool, because her family was open and talked about stuttering at home. She has a uncle that stutters, so it is something the family discusses. I

  2. Christine Scally says:

    Carrie, you asked, “When is the right time to directly discuss a child’s ‘bumpy speech’ with them?”
    I really don’t know, but I’ll tell you what I plan to do with my students (both third graders, just started at Waller, one had therapy before– but he doesn’t seem to have much self-awareness around his fluency goals).
    I’m planning to jump in with direct discussions on session 5. (I know specific, right.) basically, after the students and I have built rapport and established the how-tos of some basic speech tasks. — But before I talk directly to the students, I’m going to front load the teachers and on-site social workers so that they can have some go-to responses and begin speaking openly (and confidently) with their students about stuttering when it comes up. ( I’m also just giving them fair warning in case the discussion goes poorly– which it really might. )
    Given the therapeutic nature of the school and the variety of things the students have to cope with, “straightforward, open, and everyone-together” seems the best path. I don’t know that I would proceed in the same manner with younger students or in an environment where I was less sure of teacher follow-through. — and I don’t know that it will go well for me— but after consideration, it seems the best approach.

    • Hi Chris,
      That gives me a lot to think about….. I have a kindergarten student in interventions at the moment.
      I think the ‘front-loading’ is a great idea! Straightforward and open sounds good; education is power!
      I hope you are having a great year,
      Carrie

  3. Rachel lacap says:

    I feel like when I try to have the “there is no cure” for stuttering conversation with the parents of my students, they look at me like I’m crazy and not doing my job. However, the more research I do and the more I work with students who stutter, I have realized that the students will need to take on lifestyle changes to promote fluency and not just be “fixed”.

  4. Amanda Piekarski says:

    I think that what this chapter did for me, was really put a mental differentiation in my head between a student working on fluency and another working on (say) articulation. When the author said “So “therapy” is something to be kept secret”, that hit me! I think about all the kids who beg me to go to ‘speech’, kids who ask if their friends can join us, and kid (and parents) who don’t want to let us go! This is the other side, a child who doesn’t want ‘therapy’ and who is desperately doing everything to not stick out.

  5. Kristin Jansen says:

    I frequently wonder what students truly feel about the strategies we have been taught to use in therapy. Some of my students have expressed similar feelings as Katherine does when she states, “We sound ridiculous. If we have to talk like this to be accepted in the real world, I’d rather be silent.” I have found with many of my students that building a relationship, discussing the emotional aspect and simply modeling of fluent speech have improved their confidence and fluency. I agree with your statement, Rachel, that lifestyle changes can promote fluency.

  6. Lisa Ehrie says:

    I have spent a lot of time with high school students who stutter and the biggest thing I worked on with them was moving more towards mentally/emotionally accepting that They Are A Stutterer. There is not a cure. That is hard to say, and even harder for people who stutter to accept. I found that once these older students began to be accept they may have this stutter (be a stutterer) – for life, only then did they really begin to see stuttering in a different light and that it did not define them. I found my teens who stuttered, just like our author in the book, were always waiting for that one great strategy that will end it all, some new magic pill or device. They hid their stutter from most of their friends, teachers and anyone they came across. Choosing to say only words they knew they would not stutter on, pre-planning all their comments or not talking at all like the author. I often saw the burden of “altering” their life to hide their stuttering was like walking around with a hundred pounds of bricks on their shoulders. I had one student who just finally decided to share it all – with everyone in their life and that was the most freeing thing for them. Our author does not seem ready to make lifestyle changes just yet……

  7. Lexie Cunningham says:

    Many of my students who stutter have realized that not only are they fluent when they are angry, but also when they sing. So…we have been getting very creative in our therapy sessions. We have been doing sort of a modified melodic intonation therapy technique to see if we can capture some of that fluency. I have one student who is in the choir and this is working extremely well with her.

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