About the presenter: Lee Caggiano M.A.CCC/SLP, is a Board Recognized Specialist and Mentor in Fluency Disorders and Director of the Stuttering Therapy and Resource Center of Long Island, which is a private practice treating children, adolescents and adults who stutter. She is the co-founder and director of FRIENDS, The Association for Young People Who Stutter. Lee has developed and coordinated workshops for children who stutter, families and professionals for the past twenty years. She has presented at local and national conferences regarding the needs of children who stutter and their families, and counseling adolescents who stutter. Caggiano is an adjunct professor at New York University, Queens College and Long Island University.
About the presenter: Pamela Mertz is an active member of the stuttering community, including NSA and Friends. She is involved in Toastmasters, with membership in two clubs. Pam writes a blog called "Make Room For The Stuttering" and publishes the bi-monthly e-newsletter "Reaching Out" for Friends. She is a member of the Board of Directors for an agency that serves adults with disabilities, and is involved with a Story-Telling circle. Pam is the host of the newly launched podcast, "Women Who Stutter: Our Stories". In her spare time, Pam is a full-time high school career counselor. She lives in Albany, NY.

You can post Questions/comments about the following paper to the authors before October 22, 2010.

Self-Help Support Group Inspires Kids!

by Lee Caggiano and Pamela Mertz
from New York, USA

From Lee

Many of us have had the experience of watching children who stutter at support group events like Friends - the National Association of Young People Who Stutter, and the National Stuttering Association (NSA). We have seen these young children make remarkable changes over a short period of time. We see kids taking risks they may have previously feared, making friends, talking to new people and becoming stronger and more self-confident.

The core philosophy behind Friends is to provide family-based support in order to better help children manage their stuttering. Family support is also critical in promoting a child's ability to talk about their stuttering within the family and with other important people in their lives, and to know that they have support in their efforts to manage and deal with stuttering.

Many professionals working with clients who stutter are aware of the need to incorporate support in therapy. Children who stutter and their families often experience negative feelings surrounding their stuttering: fear, isolation, guilt, frustration, embarrassment, shame, feelings of inadequacy, helplessness. These negative feelings may interfere with the child's ability to communicate effectively and manage his stuttering successfully. These negative feelings may act as a barrier allowing only pieces of the therapeutic message to get through. Providing support is a necessary component of stuttering therapy, and is often the missing piece, helping to link therapy to the outside world.

Many children who stutter often have never met peers who stutter, and develop feelings of isolation. Spending time with other children who stutter, of all ages, in an atmosphere where it is easier to open up about their stuttering, begins to allow children to view their stuttering in a very different light. Attending support group events such as Friends conventions can provide children with emotional support, a sense of cohesiveness, feelings of acceptance, and a sense of universality. For many parents, this support has allowed them to share their feelings with other parents, where they previously might never have.

Spending time talking with adults who stutter and other children who stutter allows parents to come to a new understanding of what stuttering is and is not. It is very empowering to share the stuttering experience with their child-rather than feeling "outside" the issue and to talk with their own child about stuttering in a relaxed environment, to grow from an emotion centered focus to a problem solving focus; and to increase their understanding of stuttering.. Clinicians, must create an atmosphere of trust, respect, concern and positive regard for our clients, in order to provide them with effective therapy.

Watching young children become comfortable with their speech and their stuttering, talking and laughing about stuttering and sharing their feelings can be inspirational.

From Pam

I have had the opportunity to witness first hand how inspirational self-help and group support can be for young people who stutter and their parents, who may experience many of the same feelings that a person who stutters does. I attended my first Friends Convention in 2008 and from the minute I walked in the door, I felt welcomed and part of the group. I will always remember one parent, Gloria, who greeted me, talked to me and made me feel welcome seconds after arriving at the registration table.

Gloria has two teenagers who stutter, and shared openly how lost and isolated she felt before finding the support of the Friends organization. Her two kids have blossomed with the powerful support they have had through interacting with other kids who stutter.

Gloria also let me know that adults who stutter were especially welcome in the Friends group. She told me that kids who stutter and their parents needed adults who are willing to share our experiences. I will never forget what she said next - that adults who stutter who are involved with Friends bring HOPE. Hope that their kids will lead good lives, be successful, and do all the things that parents wish for their kids.

Kids who are involved in support groups are doing just that. I have seen kids take risks, speak in front of large groups and mentor kids who are new to group support. It is very inspiring to see kids face their fears and talk openly about stuttering with each other, with adults and their parents. It is also very inspiring to see families coming to Friends for the first time, looking nervous and unsure, and see how quickly that disappears. That is because kids involved in support groups are confident enough to welcome newcomers right away and make them feel included. They practically scoop them up right in the hotel lobby and they become part of the group. That spirit of camaraderie, friendship and sharing is part of the power of support.

I have been so inspired by the kids and parents of Friends that I have also attended the conventions in 2009 and 2010. I have co-facilitated some workshops and have recorded videos with kids and parents talking about their own stuttering journeys.

This year, at the 2010 Friends Convention in Chicago, some kids talked about their stuttering inspiration. See for yourself. These kids inspire me. You will be inspired too!

Access the YouTube videos through the following links (Sophie, Gracie, Gianna Gage, Andrew, Alex, Ashlee, Six Peas in a Pod) or directly through the embedded links below and load best on FireFox.




You can post Questions/comments about the above paper to the authors before October 22, 2010.

SUBMITTED: September 29, 2010
Translate this page into your language

Return to the opening page of the conference