Initiative to Swedish Authorities: Stuttering treatment as a matter of choice

by Helena Forne-Waestlund

A report from a small country in the north of Europe, may not appear crucial for the rest of the world. But, it is a fascinating story of how general things in our daily living, such as the rights for communication, healthcare, salary and business, education, non-avoidance and/or Comprehensive therapy approaches, things that could be easily solved, get very complicated. It is also a story of the importance of becoming politically involved, no matter where you live.

In many ways Sweden is a wonderful country. This year we have all enjoyed the most beautiful summer in 200 years, a climate during daytime like the south of Italy, cool early mornings that have helped our plants to receive enough humidity for healthy growth. However, the "climate" for persons who stutter in Sweden is less favorable. Currently in Sweden there are only an estimated 30-40 Speech-Language Pathologists to cover the needs of approximately 60,000 people who stutter. An important question for people who stutter in Sweden involves the matter of choice for the treatment of stuttering.

This year has also seen one of the most healthy political debates in years. Even me, as an SLP, who was previously not that interested in politics was tremendously encouraged by all politician from Stockholm visiting me and my clients, supporting us in our striving for access for treatment as a matter of choice for each individual, and against discrimination of private-practice clinicians.

In connection with the release of a report from the Swedish project introducing the Precision Fluency Shaping Program (PFSP) to Scandinavia, and International Stuttering Awareness Day ISAD October the 22nd 2001 we attended by invitation, the Swedish Parliament commitee for social Affairs. Our goal was to initiate a dialogue with politicians in order to create possibilities for People who Stutter to choose which kind of treatment they wanted to attend, with financing from the Swedish society and tax system and through our welfare system, whether the treatment was carried out by a Speech Pathologist employed in a hospital within a health care district or a Speech Pathologist working in a private clinic.

The participators were Annika Willfors, the former representative and initiator of the Swedish Stammerers Association, Ulf Nordstroem, Flytskaparna (Fluency shapers) and Helena Forne-Waestlund, head of the Swedish Project (PFSP). We were kindly received by Leif Carlsson, member of parliament. Through him we handed over the final Swedish report to the Ministry of Social Affairs and the parliament. We enjoyed a meeting with fruitful discussion and a friendly athmosphere.

Supported by the right wing - liberal parties the question was debated in health care districts and communities on Sunday September 15th prior to the vote in the Swedish Parliament.

Depending on the outcome of our general elections - the liberals or the socialists - there might be a final solution ahead with freedom of choice for each individual who stutters - public or private health care, non avoidance or Comprehensive or psychotherapy or ...working in a public hospital or running a private clinic all financed through our joint healthcare budget.

However, we do not know the outcome of the elections yet. In the meantime, we are working to arrange a meeting with the Swedish Union of Speech Pathologists and the Stuttering therapists to open doors for tolerance and positive solutions in terms of co-existence between non-avoidance therapists and those who use a Precision Fluency Shaping Program.

submitted September 10, 2002