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August 16, 2021

Why Do Teens Develop A Stutter?

Stuttering most often begins in early childhood, during the preschool years. Studies typically define this as between the ages of two and five years old. While it can be alarming when a young child begins to struggle with speaking, most people know that this is relatively common among young children. Next steps are easy to figure out: talk to your doctor, consult a speech-language pathologist. In most cases, children will naturally recover without the need for therapy. 

But what if a person starts to stutter when they are twelve? Fifteen? Nineteen? What’s that about? Stuttering doesn’t just happen suddenly to adolescents or young adults...right? 

The short version: Yes, sometimes stuttering does start in adolescence-- even the late teen years. NO, this isn’t always psychogenic (a result of trauma) or neurogenic (result of a brain injury). Sometimes it’s just regular, garden-variety, childhood onset stuttering that decided to show up later than usual. 

It can be tricky to track down information on the cause of a newly stuttering teenager. Families who find themselves in this situation can be panicked, seeking MRIs from neurologists to rule out brain tumors, and desperate for answers when the doctors say everything looks normal. This is not normal!

So. Let’s talk about this. Late-childhood onset stuttering.

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February 23, 2021

How to Avoid Writing Ableist Goals in Speech Therapy

SLPs are masters of goal writing. We spend literal years learning how to write specific-measurable-actionable-relevant-time-bound goals. We craft robust, descriptive targets in the restrictive ecosystem of IEP, insurance, and Medicare requirements. 

Most SLPs I meet are never satisfied with their goal writing. This is a good thing! It’s a sign of how seriously we take goals and therapy plans, that we are always seeking ways to improve. 

In the spirit of improvement, there’s something I want to call attention to in our standard practice goal writing: ableism.

We’re taught to write goals a certain way (SMART, IEP-compliant, etc.). Unfortunately, that “certain way” (that we’re shamed for not following, when in graduate school) is rooted in ableism. As our field grapples with how social justice issues apply in a speech therapy context, we need to examine why we write goals and how we write goals.

So, let’s start.

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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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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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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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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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June 24, 2020

Bridging the Treatment Gap: Research Trends and the 3Es Model

We at speech IRL were proud to unveil our 3Es model in a recent post as our overarching “approach” to speech therapy. With the knowledge that each client has a unique and nuanced set of needs, the process of identifying goals and planning treatments had always eluded a uniform step-by-step formula—until now. The 3Es supramodel (Education, Ease, and Empowerment) is broad enough to encompass all other therapy approaches, yet practical enough to help clinicians and their clients identify values-based goals and then plan specific treatments to reach those goals. A successful application of the model will create an accessible, robust, and structured “menu” of activities that can be flexibly combined throughout the course of treatment.

The need for a new supramodel became abundantly clear when we took a close look at research trends and developments from the last decade and noticed that most of it was not accounted for in a current therapy model. In this post we will provide some background information on the models that informed the 3Es, then take a dive into the research trends that we believe the 3Es model accounts for in ways that other treatment approaches have been insufficient.

If you love stuttering research, join us on July 14th for our next Dine & Development, where Courtney Luckman and Natalie Belling will summarize the latest and greatest in our trademark informal, conversational learning format. Eligible for ASHA CEUs!

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September 24, 2018

Preschool stuttering: little voices, big questions

By: Natalie Belling

Is it too soon to put my child in therapy? Will attending speech therapy cause my child to become self-conscious about their stuttering? What happens if therapy doesn't work? My pediatrician said not to worry, but the teachers keep bringing it up. I think it's a big deal, but my spouse doesn't. I read online that I shouldn't bring attention to it, but my mother says I should remind him to slow down every time he stutters.
I don't know what to think!

Early childhood stuttering is enormously complicated. There are no clean-cut answers, other than "it depends on the child." Here are a few of the most common questions we encounter from parents, and our take on the answers.

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June 26, 2018

Introducing Shared Voices, A Community for People Who Stutter

Dear speech IRL friends,

As you all know, community is one of the founding values of speech IRL. We believe that access to a supportive, accepting, challenging community is essential for successful communication and personal growth.

As an extension of the values and work that we hold dear at speech IRL, I am deeply excited to share with you about a very special endeavor that I’ve had the honor to work on for the past year. Welcome to Shared Voices Chicago: A Community for People Who Stutter.

Shared Voices is envisioned as a Chicago-based non-profit community center for people who stutter, by people who stutter. We want people who stutter to speak authentically and confidently in their professional and personal lives, without fear of judgment or barriers to success.

This is a first-of-its-kind concept: a brick-and-mortar meeting space, both safe and empowering, that welcomes PWS into a safe community, and simultaneously supports them to go out and create a better world for people with diverse voices. This is not a speech therapy clinic. All activities will be created by the stuttering community, for the stuttering community, to meet the needs of today and change the world for tomorrow.

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