I have noticed that children quite often seem to be better able to deal with whatever they think or feel about their stuttering after they have a channel, such as drawing a picture, where they are able to express the blurred sensation they feel inside. The following drawings were made by children who stutter, and are illustrations from my books. In each case there was no prompting or directing taking place. Typical eliciting questions were "What is stuttering for you?" If the child is not likely to understand the word "stuttering" we ask "What is speech for you?" or "What is it like when words don't come out easily."
The neutral probing is important. If we, as adults, try to facilitate the emotional expression for the child by giving them hints from what we think they feel, I believe we affect the actual creative process and instead give way to "Pleasing the Teacher Syndrome". When clinicians have been "helping" the child express emotions by talking about monsters, we typically see drawings of monsters or when prompting them to "map their stuttering" we do see maps, albeit detailed and great. The drawings of unique expression typically, however, lack intellectual content; they make creative and pure art.
Children who don't draw pictures, but instead describe in words the obstacles the feel inside (usually pointing to the laryngeal area), describe their blocks in terms of little men, little animals, soccer balls, feathers, heavy steel balls, etc., often quite uncomfortable, but never dreadful or fearful for the child. When explaining, or drawing, I do often see signs of relief.
The first picture is painted by a boy, age 7. In his throat are two men fighting. One man speaks "normally" and the other is the "Stutter Man." The winner of each fight decides how this child's speech will turn out from moment to moment. Two years after he drew this picture, we met by chance on a train. He said, "Hi" and then continued, "great that the best guy wins these days!"
|The picture to the right is drawn by a boy, age 6. He is convinced that stuttering can only strike when one is outside. Stuttering flies around like little yellow "bullets," entering your mouth. The drawing depicts how such a "bullet" has just entered his mouth. It won't stop there, however, but splits up in two, with one part going down to the throat, blocking his air and the other part going up to his brain where it creates the "stutter thoughts."|
|The third drawing was made by a very young (age 5-10) boy. On the day of the drawing he was in a pretty miserable temper. His grandmother was with him at the clinic for the first time and before we could go to my room, she told everyone, in a loud voice, "It is much better now." That didn't improve the youngster's attitude. In fact, he didn't want to talk at all. But when I suggested we could draw something, he brightened up considerably and we drew each other little pictures, with the watcher guessing what the artist had drawn. As he became happier, his stuttering decreased. When asked if he could make me a "difficult painting," he became very enthusiatic and said, "whatwhatwhatwhat." I suggested that he draw how it was to say words and he responded, "Ha! Easy!!!" He drew the little picture and explained that his stuttering put itself inside his lips with a "bapbapbap," but then it flew deep down in his stomach whenever he wanted to take a look at it.|
The 11 year old girl who drew the next picture, tells about her feelings of helplessness when facing her stuttering. Stuttering is something outside her body (Mr. Stuttering is angry = Herr stamning aar arg) and she is angry as well (I-I-I-I-I am angry = j-j-j-jag aar arg). It is unclear if her anger is directed towards her stuttering. At the top left corner of her picture she has drawn the "Lake of Courage," the source of her strength. Christina Persson, then a SLP student, brought us this masterpiece.
|The picture to the left was drawn by a 13 year old boy. His words laugh at him when they finally leave his mouth, but before they emerge, they have been stuck in his throat for a long time. The large and sharp teeth symbolize that stuttering is disgusting. This child is also dyslexic, so words can laugh for other reasons in addition to stuttering.|
|This next picture is my favorite and was drawn by a boy, age 13. He is deeply frustrated about his stuttering and fears what his classmates really think of him. We actually did a study about the attitudes of his classmates to help him learn what they thought. In the picture he points inside his wide open mouth with his long ugly finger, cursing and saying, "Where the h... is the d... sound I'm trying to say?"|
|The eleven year old who drew this next picture explains that it is about his hope and expectation of how his speech will be in the future. The screen at the bottom represents his current speech. His stuttering is the wall and his speech in the future is represented by the screen at the top of the picture. If you look carefully you will see that he tolerates some disfluencies also in the future. He told me that he knows he has to climb the wall, but at times he doesn't have the strength and sneaks around it instead. You can see that he has created room for that as well, since the wall does not reach the edges of the picture.|
|This 9 year old boy has drawn a very vivid picture of how he happily walks about, whistling and talking normally, until he trips over a "stuttering wire" and falls helpless to the ground. Thanks, Elisabeth Sederholm, Ph.D. SLP Umeň University.|
|Finally, a 12 year old boy illustrates his stuttering as a plug in his throat, that he explains is "blue and black, icky rubber." The title of the drawing is "Inside my throat." The boy tries to say to someone, "Hi, what's your name?" but he can't. Instead he stutters. Beneath the plug, unheard, the words live like they should, but they "can't come out."|
return to the first page of the paper