Beaumont-NSA TEENS WHO STUTTER (TWIST) Support Group

by Richard Merson, Cathy Olish, and the Teens from TWIST
from Michigan, USA

About the Beaumont-NSA TWIST

The Beaumont NSA TWIST Support Group meets six times a year in a private dining at William Beaumont Hospital . Pizza and beverage are served during each session . Parents are encouraged to attend with their teens . Each group session is facilitated by an adult PWS experienced in group support and a speech-language pathologist specializing in stuttering. The TWIST sessions are provided without a fee and teens from throughout the community are invited. The majority of the teens have recently completed treatment. Some teens are referred by speech-language pathologists in the larger southeastern Michigan area or from our website www.beaumonthospitals.com .

If young people who stutter are going to be successful in managing their speech they must learn to accept their stuttering, understand its impact on their lives and openly express themselves among their peers. Peer interaction , acceptance and performance are the keys to early success in controlling stuttering and increasing speech fluency confidence. Let's listen to some teens at the Beaumont-NSA TEENS-WHO-STUTTTER [TWIST] Support Group as they discuss how they cope with stuttering. Listen to these four brief discussions by our teens as they demonstrate how to: (1) Gain Confidence, (2) Learn Acceptance, (3) Desensitize Attitude, and (4) Take Speech Action.

Confidence

Josephine [17 years old (yo)]: "I like going to the support groups because it feels good to talk to people who are going through the same frustrations as you are. I get good advice on how to deal with stuttering."

Chris [13 yo]: "If you come to enough support groups you get to see how some kids get better at stuttering".

Paul [18 yo]: "I like to hear the good stories of speech success from the other kids. I like to hear what other kids lives are like."

Mark [17 yo]: "Email is okay, but it seems false and fake to me. Personal contact is non-stressful for me, very laid-back, I like to know what's going on."

Bonnie [19 yo]: "Coming to the support group you see and hear kids talk who know what it's like to stutter."

Chris: "When I see new kids, I see how I used to stutter, and I remember how I used to stutter on certain sounds".

Josephine: "It's weird I don't stutter in Spanish."

Acceptance

Josephine: "When I see other's stutter, I try to do something different".

Paul: "I learned a lot from Chris because he taught me that stuttering is like any other problem."

Mark [17 yo]: "I saw another younger girl at school who stutters , and when she was insulted by another teacher who said, "Learn how to talk". I went over and gave her a hug. That's what I needed when I stuttered bad."

Paul: "When I earned my Eagle Scout award the scout leader hadn't heard me stutter before. After he awarded me the Eagle Scout badge he told my mother that I would need extra help in school . I was an all ĆA' student and had earned the highest Eagle Scout award, and he thought because I stuttered I had mental problems. Some adults are ignorant about stuttering."

Josephine: "You learn to be strong. It's not your fault."

Desensitize

Josephine: "I realized that I would make a very good speech-language pathologist , even though I stutter."

Bonnie: "I like meeting other teens who stutter and realize you are not the only one."

Michael: "I remember when Bonnie started in the group three years ago and she couldn't even say her first and last name, but now she talks to everyone."

Bonnie: "I think age has helped me. If people don't like the way I talk or stutter , tough luck for them. I can remember when Paul came to his first meeting ( 4 years ago) and he had a lot of trouble getting the words out. Last month we say Paul's speech [i.e high school valedictorian) to his senior class on video. It was awesome. "Reach for your dreams", like Paul said, and don't let stuttering get in your way."

Rachel [13 yo]: "This year I went to the Baltimore NSA Conference and I met a sixteen year old girl who stutters. She was not afraid to stutter."

Bonnie: "It builds my spirit to see all the kids who stutter . It's a great confidence booster." ( Bonnie also attended the NSA Baltimore Conference).

Speech Actions

Michael: " I have to talk about the Ćdeath penalty' in class next week. I chose this topic because its so controversial . I talk a lot better when I'm under pressure or arguing.

Rachel: "I like to talk to my teachers in each class and let them know that I stutter. I tell them I'd like to talk in class , if I have a little more time and I'm not teased too much."

Michael: " I hate it when they talk about your speech behind your back. When they make fun of you, in front of you, you can talk back, or you can ignore them and let them know that your not upset. I like to let them know how I feel , if I know them. If I don't know them, I just ignore them."

Bonnie: "I tell my teachers the first day, that I stutter , and that I'll need a little more time to participate in class , but I'll be able to complete all my speaking assignments.

While these are brief but real TEEN discussions they highlight how TEENS work hard cognitively to understand and cope with their stuttering. It's the goal of the group leaders whether they are a speech pathologist, an ADULT PWS co-leader or a TEEN PWS co-leader, to recognize what the TEENS are working on ( i.e. acceptance, attitude, desensitize, action) and support healthy thinking and feelings about stuttering and discourage unhealthy and negative approaches.

We ask that the parents of our younger teens ( under 16 years) accompany them to our support groups . Hopefully the parents closely observe and learn how we support their children's coping strategies and reinforce this support at home. We encourage the older teens (17-19 years) to come by themselves and this allows them to begin to take full responsibility for their attendance and their stuttering.

Recently we have appointed two teens ( i.e. Josephine and Michael both 17 years old ) to serve as co-teen leaders in our support group. Both are seniors in High School , have attended a number of support group sessions, and have been very insightful in stimulating others to talk about their stuttering.

Some teenagers are not ready for a support group. They need to have a good sense of speech fluency controls, and how their feelings and listener reactions affect their stuttering severity. Above all they need to be ready to work on their speech. The TEEN groups have to be relevant , fun, and accepting . This is often highly dependent on the quality of the TEENS that you are able to recruit.

The success achieved in TEENS WHO STUTTER Support Groups (TWIST) cannot be overestimated. In the words of Chubby Checkers , "Let's TWIST again, like we did last summer."

You can post Questions/comments to any or all of the authors before October 22, 2004.


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