What Does a Grapefruit Have to do with Stuttering?

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Re: Covert Stuttering and Children

From: Kristin Pelczarski
Date: 23 Oct 2008
Time: 13:09:54 -0500
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Although I don’t think there has been a lot (or any) research on exactly when covert stuttering develops, I have seen children in the clinic who were demonstrating avoidance and word-changing behaviors as young as 3 years old. Kids this young (preschool) seem to benefit more from modeling and desensitization activities – statements like, “it’s okay if you have bumps sometime” or being reassured that “we really want to hear what you have to say, even if it’s bumpy. You have such great things to say!” Really focusing on the content of what the child is saying and helping him develop healthy communication attitudes about their speech as early as possible can help kids realize that they can be great communicators even if they have some bumps once and a while. I try to stay aware of the fact that stuttering can be so uncomfortable for some children that they start to develop some “covert” behaviors. When I am seeing a client in treatment demonstrate fewer stutters I try to look closely to make sure that it is not because they are avoiding or word-changing. Sometimes you just have to ask, “It sounded like you were going to say a different word. Did you maybe change your word to one that is easier to say?” I make sure to ask this in a really gentle, non-judgmental way. If they indicate that they did indeed switch words, you can open up the discussion to talk about not only when and why they choose to avoid/hide their stuttering. I always reinforce that I want to hear all the terrific things they have to say and that they deserve to say exactly what they want to – stutters or not! Keep in mind too, if a client is feeling so uncomfortable with his stuttering that he is hiding it, chances are just talking about it once won’t make him automatically ready to stop hiding! It is a discussion you will continue to have with the client and he needs to know that you are trying to understand more so you can help more – not judging his choices. We want to avoid having the client avoid with us! But, the more seeds we plant to help the client realize he could make different choices – the better! To answer you question as to how to discuss avoidance with your client – it really does depend on his age. You can certainly try the analogy if he is in elementary school and see how he responds. Chances are it won’t be that meaningful to him, but you never know! It is great that you are addressing avoidance behaviors. Hope I answered your question!!

Last changed: 10/23/08