Children who stutter know more about their own speech than anyone else. They know the times they stutter and how hard fluency is for them. More important, they know how they feel about their speech. If you can get children to talk to you about their speech in these ways, you can increase communication and your connection with children. The questions are, how do you elicit this information? How can you encourage children to talk? And how can you organize childrens' words in a helpful way?
This journal is a tool for discovering a child's point of view about stuttering. Her/his observations will breathe life into any dry therapeutic materials they may be facing. If you are a careful listener, a child who stutters will share her/his thoughts with you. This journal will provide a way to collect and organize this priceless material.
Children will tell you stories of fear, shame, courage, and success. They will have stories of loneliness on the playground, fear on the school bus, panic over oral presentations in the classroom, battles with brothers and sisters, and pride in the perfection of skills other than speaking. There will also be stories of joy while palling about with friends who could care less about perfect speech. There will be expressions of love and closeness when talking with adults who listen appreciatively, without demand for fluency.
Listen and you will learn about the reality of living with the disorder of fluency. If you are lucky, you will learn to EMPATHIZE with the child who stutters. Empathy gives you the sensitivity you need to help the best way you know how.
This journal will help you to remember that stuttering is not just "bumpy speech." It is a disruption in the smooth communication between people. It interrupts interpersonal interactions. Stuttering is a burden children should not bear alone. As a serious listener you will lighten the load.
The process of journal writing can help with differential diagnosis of stuttering.(Clinical Management of Childhood Stuttering Second Edition by Meryl J Wall and FlorenceL. Meyers © 1984 by PRO-ED, Inc. is one example of a model of fluency that systematically evaluates a wide range of skills in order to specify the nature of a child's stuttering problem.) Differential diagnosis involves assessing the many components of communication: phonology, semantics, syntax, and pragmatics, oral motor function, hearing acuity, auditory processing, etc.
Moving fluent speech out of the clinical setting into the real world, transference, is a crucial part of stuttering therapy. We believe that journal writing can drive the process of transference to begin immediately, not after hours and hours of monotonous drill in the speech therapy room Journal writing will also expose opportunities for generalizing IEP goals.
We respect the role other professionals can play in a child's life. As you embark on this journey of journal writing, be aware that you are a companion. You are a helper. There may be times when trained professionals in other fields should be consulted regarding a child's thoughts, feelings actions, and observations. An obvious situation is when a child is suffering teasing at school. School personnel need to be consulted regarding problems at school. Parents may decide to seek help from a psychologist, adjustment counselor, pastor, or other professional regarding social/emotional issues.
Enjoy the journal writing process as one way to communicate/connect with a child. When she/he sees that her/his words are so important that you are writing them down, she/he will smile. Little by little, as you talk about each entry, you will get to know one another better. Revel in this process. It's what life is all about.
Jackie Biagini & Judy Butler