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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July 22, 2020

The Small Talk Solution: An Easy Formula for Less-Awkward Engagement

If communication topics were songs, Small Talk would be in our Top 5 Greatest Hits at speech IRL. We hear all kinds of complaints about how pointless small talk is and that it’s a waste of time. So, some of our most chagrined clients are surprised to find out that small talk is actually a means to an end—and understanding that purpose is often what solves the small talk problem. Ironically, while it is one of the most universally-loathed forms of communication, it is one of the most straightforward skills to teach.

Take this client for example: 

“Any plans this weekend?”

“Yeah.” He sighed. “I’m going to California. My girlfriend’s cousin is getting married. I’ve met a bunch of her family, they’re fine…it’s just the whole conversation thing is so exhausting. Like even though I’ve met them, we just have to be together for all those hours, and I never know what to say. It’s so awkward.”

We had already finished the session, but I wanted to assuage his stress. “Oh yeah, that’s a thing. You know there’s a formula for that, though, right?”

He bolted upright. “What?”

“Yeah, here.” I grabbed a piece of paper and sketched out a few words. “Here you go.”

He stared at it, in a blend of relief and anger.

“Holy shit. Why the f--- did no one teach me this in middle school???”

Conversation is an art, but there is an awful lot of science, or method, behind it. Small talk is in fact the most methodical form of conversation. I’ve written previously about the high-level principles of successful conversation, where small talk is a critical element. In this post, I’ll outline exactly what small talk is, how to do it, and how it relates to the introvert’s saving grace: Medium Talk.

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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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June 3, 2020

Black Lives Matter

BLACK LIVES MATTER.

Our mission at speech IRL is, and has always been, to strengthen, elevate, and amplify marginalized voices. Discrimination and injustice are everyday topics in our office, experienced by our clients who are neurodiverse, LBGTQ+, disabled, from minority cultural, ethnic, and racial backgrounds. As of this writing, we commemorate Pride month.

But right now, this time that we are living through, we join with so many others and use our full voice to say that Black Lives Matter.

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May 20, 2020

How to make the most of video chats and avoid Zoom fatigue

Video conferencing apps like Zoom have become a daily life staple, for work, play, and personal connection. As we adapt to a socially distanced lifestyle and routine, this medium of communication is getting harder for many, not easier. “Zoom fatigue” is real. Video-based communication requires more intense focus and attention than face-to-face communication. We have to filter out pauses, glitches, background noise and other distractions while processing what others are saying. Your brain does all this receptive processing first, and then you need to determine what to do with that information or how to respond. If you are feeling drained and slogging through your days at the computer, you are definitely not alone. More time to adjust won’t make you less exhausted.

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May 12, 2020

Introducing the 3Es: how to do speech therapy, IRL-style

The 3Es is a therapy planning tool we are developing for clinicians, therapists, and our clients. It is designed as a supramodel, meaning that every single therapy approach fits within the 3Es. The model can be used to understand different approaches and how they relate and compare to one another.

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April 20, 2020

Mindful Communication

So many things happen in a moment of communication: expressing an original idea or a concern, making a promise, opening up a possibility, setting a boundary, and more. When a negative thought stops you from speaking, there’s usually a lot more behind that unspoken thought that gets kept inside—or that comes out in a reactionary and unintentional way. At speech IRL, we see this acutely in people who come to us for nearly every form of communication therapy. Anxiety and shame around speech patterns keeps them from speaking. Ultimately, speaking is the only way to practice communication skills and gain confidence; avoidance perpetuates the insecurities. We have found that infusing traditional speech therapy with mindfulness is a crucial ingredient for nearly all of our clients, from stuttering to executive functioning, gendered communication, professional communication, and more.

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April 17, 2020

Executive Function In Fatigue And Fear

Is it realistic to recreate some semblance of a “normal” work environment? What should you expect of your team? How much of your own uncertainty do you share? How do you maintain your executive functioning ability, when you’re drowning in executive fatigue?

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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

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