Adults Who Stutter

August 2013

I’ve been thinking about adults who stutter and what they have taught me. They give life and color to the principles of good therapy. I work with people who stutter and am a person who stutters. My approach in therapy is to teach tools to manage stuttering and tools to manage attitudes. Therapy is successful when the client is able to say what he wants to say in spite of stuttering, and when he stops letting stuttering define himself and influence daily choices. Success does not arrive all at once, like crossing a finish line but is seen in small triumphs which gradually grow to be direction-changers.

Successful therapy begins with a discussion of what the client wants from therapy. I have learned I need to really listen, for example, when N. tells me he is considering changing his name legally because he can’t say it or when B. tells me she named her children names she could say.

Successful therapy happens when I model openness and honesty. This includes demonstrating and being open about my own stuttering. N., a young man who tried to hide stuttering all his life, quickly embraced openness and began inviting friends to speech therapy.

Successful therapy comes when I treat clients with respect and strive to understand how stuttering impacts their daily lives. R.’s role as coordinator of children’s groups at an educational farm required him to meet new students regularly. Every week would find some child giggling when he introduced himself, which gave him an opportunity to explain stuttering.

Successful therapy happens when you demonstrate a willingness to learn from your client and show him that he has given you a new insight or caused you to think in a different way. I had never attended the annual National Stuttering Association meeting until my client C. who had for 20 years avoided any mention or dealing with stuttering, told me he was attending. I signed up the next day. L. is a brilliant young professional who quickly grasped the concept and value of letting others know about her stuttering, sometimes called disclosure or advertising. She began one day referring to this practice as FYI-ing, a term which I immediately co-opted with her knowledge.

Successful therapy happens when the client acknowledges that that change is hard and moves toward it anyway, sometimes with tears. I have learned to be comfortable with crying.

Success happens when small changes are targeted, applauded and recognized. As a woman told me, “small steps are big steps.”

Success in therapy can be enhanced when the client is willing to educate people about stuttering, or mentor younger people who stutter. F. is a smart and successful college student was very willing to meet and converse with a fifth grade girl who stuttered. She was willing to expose her own stuttering. R. and G., persons who stutter, were willing to face their fear and to speak to college classes about stuttering and stuttering therapy.

Success in therapy happens when the person is ready for change. The successful accountant T. left therapy very disappointed in me and in treatment because she was still stuttering and did not/ could not do what I challenged her to do. She wanted stuttering to go away, never to return.

Success in therapy happens when the client is brave and courageous and self-assigning. L. was covert with his stuttering for 20 years, then one day quit his job as an engineer, spent months at home researching stuttering, started speech therapy, and as a self generated assignment, sent a email to family and friends disclosing his stuttering and what he was doing to change. R. began a journey toward a career as an SLP when she came up to me during a break in a college lecture and through tears told me she was a person who stuttered and had never met anyone else who stuttered. K. is a successful professional and mother and covert person who stutters, and yet to help her fourth grade daughter, also a person who stutters, K. was willing to point out her hidden stutters during conversation, deliberately and systematically calling attention to something she hated and as she said, was “mortifying.”

Success in therapy can happen when the clinician establishes a relationship with the person, takes a risk and allows himself to be vulnerable. I. was a young man who stuttered and was in prison for a serious offense. He made immediate gains in speech therapy and he and his two clinicians formed a friendship. All were deeply hurt when the young man was released from jail and almost immediately was taken into custody again.

Success in therapy happens when the client can put stuttering in perspective and see it in relation to his other life issues. H. is a person who stutters and who has MS. For her stuttering is not the overwhelming dark cloud that it might be for someone else.

Success in therapy can be enhanced when the client forges ahead to establish other roles for himself besides stutterer. As he gained a degree of comfort with his stuttering, my client G. began combining his love and talent for woodworking and his interest in film-making into an avocation as a maker of how- to woodworking videos.

Success in stuttering therapy happens when the client begins to view his weakness as strength or even a gift and is grateful for it. As she began interviewing for jobs in her very competitive and crowded career area, L. realized that people were remembering her in part because she stuttered and still successfully communicated.

Successful therapy involves support from friends and family. D., M.’s husband, sat in on several stuttering support group meetings and described the group as “kind of a cool club” and wished he could belong.

I have learned from my clients.

© 2013 Glenn Weybright. All rights reserved.

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