November 19, 2020

Joe Biden and the Future of Stuttering

One of the most common refrains we hear in our sessions is, “I can’t be an X because I stutter” (or am autistic, or have language difficulties, or any other kind of communication challenge). X is whatever the person most wants to be. Often, it’s a career that involves speaking. Lawyer. Doctor. Teacher. Psychologist. Politician.

Well. It turns out you can stutter and people will still choose you to be the President of the United States.

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November 19, 2020

The Art of Political Small Talk

The general rule for small talk is you can’t talk about politics. However, COVID-19 and the 2020 election have flipped this upside down.

Small talk often begins by talking about the shared environment—commenting on the weather, discussing upcoming holidays, etc. When we are talking through masks or over Zoom and experiencing an election of historic proportions, it’s a little hard to avoid the elephant in the room. 

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October 27, 2020

How A Lost Voice Saved A Life

I’ve worked with speech therapy clients in all sorts of unique situations over the years. It’s always sad to see them go, but very rewarding to see the change in them once they have achieved their goals. Each client takes a different path through the different areas we cover in speech therapy: naming their goals, learning about the speech apparatus and communication techniques they’ll be using, practicing exercises and working on other activities, etc. But a few clients will always stand out in my mind, such as this one from my first year of practice. Mr. James (name changed) was staying at a skilled nursing facility. The first time I visited him was quite awkward.

“Katie, can you screen Mr. James in room 103 for speech? He’s kind of hard to understand.”

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October 22, 2020

International Stuttering Awareness Day 2020

by Alexander Whelan, MA, CCC-SLP

Each year, the stuttering community celebrates International Stuttering Awareness Day on October 22nd. People who stutter (PWS) all over the world take this opportunity to raise awareness and educate others about stuttering and to shine light on some of the “blind spots” and misconceptions that people have about stuttering. 

As PWS know, stuttering is so much more than what casual listeners can observe during mundane, everyday interactions. As an example, PWS could experience twenty minutes of mounting anxiety while sitting at a restaurant waiting to order an entrée. If their order happens to come out fluently or mostly fluently, the server and everybody else at the table are completely unaware of the stressful moments that were just endured. Even when stuttering is directly observable, listeners only see a snapshot of the stuttering moment. All of the mental gymnastics that led up to that moment aren’t outwardly visible to listeners. Neither are the embarrassment, awkwardness, guilt at having caused awkwardness for the listener, frustration, and shame that sometimes follow stuttering moments.

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October 9, 2020

Goals for Ease: Spontaneity of Speech

In our previous posts on education and empowerment goals for speech therapy, we discussed activities to work on as alternatives to speech goals. You may expect this post will finally get to some new activities that actually focus on fluency—but alas, not quite. Ease, our final E in our 3Es model actually has little to do with fluency of speech. Aspects of ease include spontaneous speech, stuttering easier with less tension, and awareness of the speech mechanism. 

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September 21, 2020

Goals for Empowerment: Sometimes Progress Is Stuttering More

In our previous blog on education goals for speech therapy, we outlined some education-focused goals and activities for IEP students who are “over” speech therapy. Some students just don’t want to work on speech goals, and that’s perfectly fine! Empowerment is the second E in our 3Es model of stuttering therapy, and it’s another goal area you can work on to make IEP minutes that doesn’t involve speech goals

It follows that while the student makes progress with empowerment, it might not look like progress on the outside: I had a parent come to me once, concerned that her 12 year old was stuttering more after coming to speech therapy for a few weeks. 

“Great!” I said to mom. That is exactly where we want to be.

Uncomfortable and confused, mom wanted answers. I asked her, 

  1. Is she talking more?
  2. Is she saying feared words, instead of avoiding them?
  3. Is she participating in class and/or social interactions more?
  4. Is she stuttering confidently?

Mom answered yes to all of these questions.

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September 21, 2020

Common Unethical Employment Practices in Speech-Language Pathology

Congratulations on graduating, CF-SLP! Welcome to the CFY job search, the first gauntlet of your new career. The good news is, getting that CFY job is something you only have to do once.

...well, hopefully once. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people out there who take CFY jobs that turn out to be miserable, to the point that they decide to quit and find another CFY job to finish out the fellowship period. You know how much the CFY hunt sucks, so it really says something when a person decides to jump ship and put themselves through the wringer again.

New clinicians often struggle to determine if a job offer is reasonable, and if an employer seems decent. In many cases, the CFY is your first experience ever with a professional-class job, where the expectations and standards are different from positions like retail, hospitality service, or working at summer camps. 

I will say this as politely and professionally as I can: a lot of SLP employers are crap. The quality of clinical service delivery may be outstanding, the practice may be decades-old and have multiple locations, and the clients may report high satisfaction. Sadly, when it comes to what is good for the practice, what is good for the clients, and what is good for the clinicians...the clinicians are prioritized dead last (if even considered at all). Clinics can get away with this because there is a constant supply of naive, eager, and debt-ridden CFs who graduate every year that can be reliably recruited and discarded as needed.

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August 22, 2020

Fact-checking the New York Times about Stuttering

On Thursday night, I shared joy with so many others around the country. We watched and listened to Brayden Harrington as he spoke openly about stuttering at the Democractic National Convention. He exuded confidence, eloquence, and charisma while showcasing his powerful voice. The next day, #BraydenHarrington was trending on Twitter. 

It is difficult to describe in words how emotional and impactful this moment was for the stuttering community. Stuttering is one of the oldest-known human experiences, dating back to Greek philosophers and Old Testament figures. Despite this history, stuttering continues to be misunderstood and miscategorized, with discrimination faced daily by people who stutter.

Brayden was a sign that maybe now, in 2020, things are finally different. Members of the stuttering community and professional community have joined forces for decades to educate the public, dispel harmful myths, and advocate for the rights and dignity of people who stutter. Could a Presidential candidate, and his 13-year-old friend, be a sign that this has finally paid off?

We all thought so, but the New York Times proved otherwise.

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August 18, 2020

How to Plan Stuttering Treatment for IEP Students who are “Over” Speech Therapy

I received an email from a graduate student this week, asking for advice about a fluency client in an upcoming school placement. The student described a very, very common scenario that school-based SLPs encounter with stuttering students who have IEPs. If you’re a school-based SLP diving back into IEPs after summer break, there’s a good chance you’ll encounter one or two students like this:

"The student does not describe his disfluency in any specific way. His current goals include working on breathing techniques and easy onsets. He is unaware of his difficulty with coordinating speech with breath, and talking too fast through each breath. My supervisor noted that he is very unmotivated to participate in therapy. She expressed that this became even more difficult with the transition to remote therapy in the spring, and that is how we will be delivering his services this fall as well. He is entering 4th grade, and apparently is very 'over' going to speech therapy."

Sound familiar?

  • Kid with disfluent speech pattern has goals to “modify” the atypical patterns. 
  • Kid doesn’t care to work on modifying his speech.
  • Kid is “over” therapy in general.
  • Kid has an IEP, so you have to meet the minutes.
  • BONUS: we’re doing telepractice! *sobs*
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July 22, 2020

How to Speak 2020

This post is for anyone who gets overwhelmed by headlines, Instagram stories, and tweets that use all kinds of social terms you aren't familiar with. You want to ask questions, but are afraid of saying something wrong in the process. Here's what you should know before you download "Social Justice" on Duolingo.


“Katie, you know what makes me so angry?” My passionate teenage client had just arrived, the conversation ready to explode out of him before he had even sloughed off his backpack.

“What?”

“People using the wrong pronouns! Like, I have a bunch of friends who have updated their pronouns, and it’s like, cool. I use their new pronouns. And my other friends, they all use the new pronouns too. You know what I’ve noticed, it’s adults who don’t use the right pronouns. And they make all these excuses, like ‘Oh I’m trying,’ ‘Oh it’s hard to change habits’, whatever. Like, bullshit. It’s not that hard. Just be a decent person, shit!”

“That’s a pretty interesting observation.” I paused. “I have that same problem, too. I am trying, but I mess up a lot.”

He blinked, confused. “Wait, what? You?”

“Yeah. I think you’re spot on about adults versus younger people. It is a lot harder to change those verbal patterns when you’re older. I’ve noticed the difference in my brain now, back from when I was a teenager. Even with the work that we do at speech IRL now, I am really clumsy with pronouns. You’re still right, of course—it is no excuse, it’s a reminder that I need to dedicate more time to practice. But adult brains...we’re very slow at changing patterns like this.”

His body language softened. “Hmph. I guess. But it’s still wrong.”

“Yes, that’s absolutely true,” I agreed. “It’s not fair or right to those on the receiving end. So, support your friends who are dealing with people like me. And make sure you enjoy your adaptable brain while you have it.”


In the era of memes, tweets, angry acronyms and eponymous insults, the words we use mean more in 2020 than ever before. As this client pointed out, we’re all making changes to the way we talk about certain things—especially this year—because our society as a whole is changing. It was easy for me to empathize with his frustrations because I’ve had my own moments of disbelief and impatience with others who aren’t adjusting as quickly as I’d like them to. 

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8 S Michigan Ave, Suite 812 
Chicago, IL 60603
312.870.0352
Or send us a message

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8 S Michigan Ave     Suite 812
Chicago, IL 60603
312.870.0352
Or send us a message

logo

8 S Michigan Ave, Suite 812
Chicago, IL 60603
312.870.0352
Or send us a message

logo

8 S Michigan Ave, Suite 812
Chicago, IL 60603
312.870.0352
Or send us a message
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Looking for employee training? Check out our Business Services
Looking for employee training? Check out our Business Services
Looking for employee training? Check out our Business Services
Looking for employee training? Check out our Business Services