How SLPs Can Support Students Who Stutter
During a recent Cross Country Education webinar, Barbara Gutierrez, EdD, CCC-SLP, shared strategies and activities SLPs can use to help students strengthen fluency. Dr. Gutierrez also outlined techniques to help students at the elementary, middle and high school levels and traits SLPs can cultivate to be more successful. Here are some highlights.
Fluency vs. Disfluency
Fluency is the effortless flow of speech. On the other hand, disfluency involves breaks in the flow of speech. All speakers (individuals who stutter and typical speakers) can have disfluencies, particularly if they are nervous, stressed or tired. However, those who stutter may experience more disfluencies or different types of disfluencies.
Stuttering can involve:
- Repetition of sounds, syllables or single-syllable words
- Prolongation of sounds or words
- Trouble beginning words or sentences
- Pauses or silences within words
- Blocks, which involve a stoppage of airflow or voicing
Disfluency Therapy for Elementary Students
If you are working to strengthen fluency with elementary school students, you can:
- Practice inhalation and exhalation while teaching them about the respiratory system
- Practice smooth, prolonged speech while playing games like Go Fish
- Teach about the types of stuttering and practice different types of stutters, so students become desensitized to them
- Teach stuttering modification techniques students can use when they anticipate a stutter, are in the middle of a stutter or have stuttered and can't move on
Disfluency Therapy for Middle and High School Students
If you are working with elementary school clients, you can:
- Teach speech modification and fluency shaping – Have students try to change the timing and tension of speech production and alter the timing of pausing between syllables and words.
- Teach stuttering modification strategies – Have students try to reduce the physical tension or struggle. Have them identify where in the speech mechanism the physical tension is and release it.
- Teach strategies for reducing negative reactions – Work on desensitization, cognitive restructuring and self-disclosure.
Group Activities to Help Students Who Stutter
One way to build confidence and fluency is to organize a group for students who stutter. In the group, you can have students:
- Introduce themselves
- Introduce others
- Play games
- Read books about stuttering
- Discuss stuttering
- Invite guest speakers
- Create personal contracts
- Practice public speaking
- Make videos
- Play with toys, bubbles or puppets
SLP Traits to Help Students Impacted by Stuttering
Children and teens who stutter may feel anxious, frustrated or insecure. To put students at ease, SLPs can strengthen the following attributes within themselves:
- Empathy – How well are you able to understand your client's feelings, thoughts, and behaviors?
- Warmth – Do your tone, facial expressions and body language convey unconditional acceptance?
- Genuineness – Do your interactions help forge trusting client-clinician relationships?