What to Focus on in Adolescent Stuttering Therapy
I don’t know about you, but I find it difficult to get middle and high school speech therapy students to open about…. well, anything. So I’ve found it particularly challenging to get my students who stutter to talk about their experiences, anxieties, and self-perceptions. And this is a really important goal to have….. students at this age have likely learned and practiced the fluency techniques for several years. They will likely never be stutter-free and that is o.k. In fact, the American Speech & Hearing Association affirms that stuttering therapy for older children and adults needs to focus on management of the condition….. not 100% fluency. Stuttering is a complex disorder with genetic and neurological roots, and we would be as unrealistic to expect a cure for the condition as it would be to expect a person with partial blindness to have a “goal” of seeing with 20/20 vision. So what is there left to teach after years of fluency therapy? Quite a lot actually.
- We need to teach our students how to accept being a stutterer.
- We need to teach them how to be comfortable in a multitude of real life situations: giving presentations, ordering at a fast food place, calling a friend or a store, making a doctor’s appointment, asking a salesperson for help….
- We need to teach them how to confront and go into situations in which they are uncomfortable-to not let stuttering hold them back from life experiences.
- We need to teach them how to teach their parents about stuttering. I have been in meetings where the student was comfortable with their stuttering but parents were looking for a cure. I’ve also encountered family members with a history of stuttering therapy who were taught approaches that we now know to be ineffective and stigmatizing. Unfortunately, students and therapists must now correct misconceptions and debunk older approaches.
So with all that we have to achieve, I would like to share these essential resources.
Free Stuttering Ideas & Resources
One very helpful resource for coming up with discussion questions and activities is 101 Things to Do from the National Stuttering Association. It lists 101 possible activities to do with a stuttering support group, and many can be utilized or only slightly modified for school-based speech therapy. One of my favorite ways to use this resource is to select a different discussion question each week and use it to start off the session; this ensures students are regularly thinking about and evaluating their perceptions of stuttering.
Another great resource is Stuttering Therapy Resources, which is co-owned by the brilliant and very generous stuttering researcher-clinician J. Scott Yaruss. I particularly love this goals page which tells speech-language pathologist how to transition from those pesky fluency goals on to more practical and functional stuttering objectives for school-age students.
Finally, I’d like to share these basic role-play script templates I am using with students. I like to play out scenarios like ordering food and making calls with students but have found it nearly impossible to locate scripts and scenario ideas. I decided to create these cards where students would fill out the dialogue for some scenarios they might encounter in the real-world. I wanted my students to fill out the dialogue themselves so they could really think through how the situation would unfold and their own responses; however, you are welcome to write the dialogue into the cards and have students act them out, too!