Eric ("the motivated teen") is presently an 8th grade student in public school. He is an honor student and is active in forensics and
Taekwondo. In addition, Eric is a student leader. Eric also asks some
very penetrating questions about stuttering in general and his own
stuttering in particular. Eric's email is: GameShowGuy13@aol.com
PRELIMINARY DISCUSSION: This definition of the Stuttering Beast helps to illustrate the complexity of stuttering and why stuttering is such a difficult disorder to analyze and treat: The Stuttering Beast, with its neurological, physiological, chemical, and genetic underpinnings, along with its negatively enhanced developmental, environmental, sociological, psychological, and behavioral components, and which manifests itself in negatively reinforced episodic stuttered speech and disordered language, becomes a powerful, self-reinforce habit, which becomes totally integrated into a person's life.
ERIC RESPONDS: My viewpoint on my personal stuttering is that it is a mental problem that can be aided by various speech helpers (ex: Stop and Go). I have found that stuttering occurs when one is constantly worrying about saying a word or phrase. This develops to the point where the person who stutters is focusing strictly on whether or not he will be able to say what he wants to, and failing to focus at all on how to develop his conversation. Dr. Johnson has shown me how to have a positive attitude and how to attach spontaneity to my speech. He has also given me speech helpers which have helped make my speech more fluent. Had it not been for Dr. Johnson, I highly doubt that I would have been able to be so successful at Forensics this year (I won a medal and various ribbons), in which I had to make a six-minute speech! I feel that I am in total control of stuttering and am capable of removing it from my life all together.
TEEN THERAPY: Finding a compatible way for a teen to accept therapy for stuttering is often more complex than the therapy. Here are a few suggestions for the achievement of this goal:
EMAIL: Most schools, libraries, and individuals have a computer and
most people are trained enough in their use to cruise the Internet and
correspond by email. A few suggestions for the use of email as an
adjunct to therapy are:
- Develop a "buddy"
relationship with the SLP that is nonjudgmental and accepting and which
might involve the teens vocabulary and language, that at times, might
not be appropriate.
- Allow the teen to interpret the goals and
strategies of therapy and to be able to select from the "plan" those
ideas that "seem to make the most sense."
- Allow for imperfection
and anticipate it. Help the teen learn how to tolerate imperfection in
him/herself and others.
- Develop a holistic plan that includes teen
problem solving of both related and seemingly unrelated concerns.
Help the teen develop a buddy relationship with other adults in the
- Discover any hidden talents and promote them.
- The SLP might assist in arranging for academic tutoring if needed.
- The teens mental and physical health needs should be addressed.
Develop self-awareness, tolerance, patience, and self-confidence.
Build the teen's ego-power.
- Bring other teens into the therapy
plan so it does not become a "secret" between just the SLP and the
- Help the teen develop a reality check for his/her own
behavior and that of others.
- Develop a feedback plan that
PITFALLS WITH EMAIL THERAPY: Of course, email therapy is not the
end-all and problems might arise.
- "Talking to a computer" facilitates the
teen's ability to open up the dialogue. Sometimes face to face contact
inhibits self-expression. Email has been characterized as being a more
casual and spontaneous means of communication.
- Email allows for
anytime transmission of happenings, ideas, thoughts, and spur of the
- Sometimes editing of content prior to transmission
is desirable and email allows for this.
- With portable devices any
place emailing becomes a reality.
- Email allows both the sender and
receiver to make a hardcopy for future reference or for immediate
response and reflection.
- Responding to an email allows either
party time to reflect upon its message and to respond with reasoned
- Email can maximize the therapy time for both the teen and
- Email might be a less expensive form of therapy contact.
- Email might be the final tool for teen initiated termination of
therapy without having to confront the SLP.
- Email might actually
facilitate a "buddy" relationship with the SLP.
- Email is/can be
very personal and therapeutic.
- Just "pounding out" a message on a
keyboard can be therapeutic.
- Email therapy is an "out of the box"
suggestion with potential for the motivated, self-directed,
risk-taking, intelligent teen.
ERIC RESPONDS: E-mail therapy works out perfectly for me because:
- The teen might consider email to
be a substitute for regularly scheduled contact with an SLP.
Controlled and enhanced practice of symptomatic modification is not
facilitated by email.
- Difficulty in stopping the emailing. When
is enough enough?
- Email might not have the therapeutic power that
face to face contact might have.
- Instant email exchanges might not
- The inherent email casualness might breed a degree a
familiarity that could be detrimental to a therapeutic relationship.
- Email exchanges might not lend itself to a cookbook approach to
therapy and some SLP's might not be equipped to deal with the
spontaneity that email affords the teen.
ILLUSTRATIVE EMAIL COMMENTARIES: To illustrate the tenor of the
emails, we have pulled together a few edited emails from our early
exchanges. Interestingly, our latest email exchanges were about
It allows me to get help and reassurance in a comfortable setting free
of peer pressure and discrimination.
- It is available 24 hours a
day. I do not mean that I expect the therapist to be available 24
hours a day, but more that the opportunity to express my feelings
positively is always at my disposal.
- Many schools only have speech
therapy in correlation with a Special Ed program, which suits some
people fine, but would be unable to serve me in the intelligent manner
which I preserve. ( I have a 4.0 GPA).
- Because I feel I have more
of a mental stuttering problem, it allows me to work with a person who
views the problem as such. School speech therapists, in my opinion,
think more in terms of people having physical problems than mental
Jerry: Be confident in yourself and your talents. Try not to
anticipate the negative. Tolerate your stuttering to a certain degree.
Remember, there is no "it" in this process. Garbage in-garbage out.
Don't let other people intimidate you to the point that you feel you
can't or shouldn't stutter openly, freely, easily, without shame or
embarrassment. Practice, practice, practice. Do not set your goals so
high that you doom yourself to failure.
CONCLUSIONS (by Jerry): Eric has had his ups and downs with his
stuttering--so, what else is new about the Stuttering Beast! I believe
that Eric has relied upon email a little too much which has negated
Eric's having direct contact with an SLP in his school. However, since
this has been very much self-guided therapy, Eric has felt comfortable
with this approach. I have been supportive of Eric's decision, while
still gently prodding Eric to seek professional contact, even if it
were on a sporadic basis. We continue to email back and forth and I
feel that, for the time being, this is meeting Eric's needs. I have
found Eric to be very intellectual and willing to share his emotional
reactions to his stuttering.
Eric: My frustration was at a 10 and I felt like my mouth was locked
up and the garbage in my speech would come automatically. I am very
angry that everyone else around me, including losers and everyone else
of that sort, can talk fluently, even if nothing constructive or
anything ever come out of their mouths. Even though I know literally
every answer in class I still do not raise my hand.
Jerry: Whatever you do, do not blame yourself or hold back because
that is what the Stuttering Beast wants you to do. Do not give up or
give in to your own feelings of frustration. Remember you must make
practicing your speech helpers your life style. In addition to your
speech helpers remember to be spontaneous with your speech too without
thinking about HOW to talk. Learn how to deal with your frustration in
a realistic manner and don't turn on yourself because that will only
make matters worse. Look on the positive side ("Accentuate the
positive and eliminate the negative") and don't become your own worst
enemy. No one is perfect so measure your successes in inches, not in
Eric: To put it simply, I am doing much better, and this time I'm not
going to shoot myself in the foot. I bear the power to talk and what
will allow me to talk fluently is confidence. I gave a presentation
today and I think I did an altogether good job at it, based upon the
point of stuttering self-therapy that I am currently in. I was the
first one to raise my hand. You know, it's actually kind of fun to
test my own limits. I'm finding that I can do a lot better than I
think I sometimes can.
Jerry: Hooray for you, you get the rusty, dusty, Wizard of Oz Lion
Award for your courage and perseverance.
In my opinion, here are a few self-help attributes (in addition to
loving and supportive parents) for a teen which are necessary for
change and for establishing a new and different persona for beating the
Stuttering Beast: Patience, Persistence, Consistent Practice,
Tolerance of Imperfection, Pride, Motivated Risk Taking, Intelligence,
and just Plain Old Guts to get the Job Done. Beating the Stuttering
Beast is a daunting task to say the least!
Eric is well on his way to achieving his personal comfort zone with life and the development of his self-help skills necessary for beating the Stuttering Beast.
The presenters offer the complete set of email exchanges to any
interested person. In collated form they run more than 50 pages. The "at cost" cost is $10.00, prepaid, and can be ordered from Jerry at 474 Lake Bluff Lane, Grafton, WI, 53024.
ACKNOWLEDGMENT: Judy Butler, CCC-SLP, author of (with Jackie Biagini) Making My Own Way: Empowering Children Who Stutter, and many articles in Reaching Out , the publication of Friends: The Association of Young People Who Stutter, for her keen observations and work with kids who stutter and her own contributions to the email process. Her email address is: email@example.com
You can post Questions/comments about the above paper to the authors before October 22, 2001.
July 20, 2001