Parents need to be selective consumers
Stuttering treatment is very different from other speech therapy and it is critical to work with a therapist who has specialized training and experience. When parents seek medical care for their children, they typically do research, ask other parents and professionals for referrals, and consult with several doctors before choosing a provider. We suggest that parents be just as selective when choosing a speech therapist.
While it might be difficult to find an experienced therapist near you, tele-practice is often a viable option. This is particularly effective with school-aged children and teens. Tele-practice can be practical for preschoolers as well, especially since much of the intervention for young children involves teaching the family how they can help their own child with their speech.
Many parents are relieved to see that their child enjoys going to speech sessions! Even though it is so important for your therapist to establish a positive therapeutic relationship with you and your child, we caution against choosing a therapist based on personality alone. It is critical that you have a clear idea of the therapist’s level of experience with children who stutter, and what their approach will be.
Before you choose a speech therapist, we suggest asking these basic questions:
1. What is your philosophy on stuttering therapy for young children, and how will you choose a therapy approach for our child?
Stuttering therapy may take many forms. Experienced therapists develop individualized therapy based on the unique needs of each case rather than prescribing to a formulaic approach. You should be given a clear picture of what therapy approach will be used with your child, and the rationales for choosing that approach.
Effective treatment aims to ensure that your child maintains the confidence to speak freely with others, without undue tension struggle or fear. While parents commonly wish for their child’s speech to become more fluent as well, those who specialize in stuttering understand that over-emphasizing fluency can place too much pressure on the child and create more struggle.
2. What will be my role, and the role of the rest of my family in this treatment?
Regardless of therapy approach, experts agree that parents need to be active participants in the therapy process. You should be in consistent contact with your child’s therapist. In addition, it is helpful if your therapist can collaborate with other people in the child’s life (grandparents, teachers, other professionals, etc).
A good therapist will not only provide specific, and tangible strategies parents can use to help their own child, but also provide support for family members who commonly express confusion about childhood stuttering and how to talk about it openly.
3. What can I expect from therapy?
Parents often have many questions about therapy expectations. When you begin treatment, you should be given a sense of how therapy frequency will be determined, what the specific goals will be, and how progress will be measured. It is impossible to know how long any child will need to be in therapy, but you should be provided some reasonable expectations for progress. Keep in mind that more treatment does not necessarily equal “better”, so you might be cautious of a therapist who insists on multiple weekly sessions.
For more basic information for parents of young children who stutter, check out “Early Childhood Stuttering: Information and Support for Parents” from Stuttering Therapy Resources, and “If your child Stutters” from The Stuttering Foundation. For another good list of questions to consider with your child’s speech therapist, check out the Voice Unearthed blog post on this same topic.
The American Institute for Stuttering is a leading non-profit organization whose primary mission is to provide universally affordable, state-of-the-art speech therapy to people of all ages who stutter, guidance to their families, and much-needed clinical training to speech professionals wishing to gain expertise in stuttering. Offices are located in New York, NY and Atlanta, GA, and services are also available Online. Our mission extends to advancing public and scholarly understanding of this often misunderstood disorder.
Photo Credit – Ashton Bingham