Talking to Parents about Stuttering


Re: School-aged stuttering

From: Woody
Date: 10/22/00
Time: 8:14:00 AM
Remote Name:


One of the difficulties of doing therapy in the school setting is that there seems to be a preconceived notion that the SLP should go it alone and that the parents won't be involved. I don't understand where this attitude comes from, but it is certainly widespread among both parents and SLP's. The evidence, for all forms of education, special and otherwise, is just the opposite, that the more involved the parents are, the better the child will do.

I can't imagine treating a child who stutters without simultaneously treating the parents who stutter. You all have to learn to speak the same language, have the same goals, understand the same concepts. Furthermore, if you can help the parents resolve some of their issues, you may be helping them soften their reactions to the child's stuttering. I don't mean that parents' reactions cause stuttering; I think that's a silly idea. But it is just as absurd to think that parents' reactions have no influence on their child's stuttering. They must have such an influence. Parents who stutter are as likely as any other adult to have acquired a lot of stuttering "baggage," including beliefs such as "you can't communicate effectively if you stutter" or "fluency is the most important thing in the world," or "you can lick stuttering if you just try hard enough." These are all destructive attitudes (and there are many more), which a child could easily acquire from his or her parents. Children of course learn their attitudes and values from their parents, at least in the beginning. So, definitely include the parents, in every session if you can. Help them learn what it is they do when they stutter (they will recognize more easily the patterns in their child); help them learn to stutter more easily and more openly, i.e., to struggle and avoid less (they will be able to help their child learn to do the same). And when they have learned these things and their stuttering is already changed into a more fluent form, they will be ready to learn additional ways to speak more easily, and will consequently be better able to help their child learn to do the same.

It is my sense that when a child and his or her parents (or one parent) both stutter, SLP's should focus first on the parent, so that they can help the child. I always think of the fact that in an airplane they instruct parents to put on the oxygen mask first, then they will be better able to help their child. But if they try to save the child first, both may fail. In this case too, help the parent first, so that they can help the child.

Last changed: September 12, 2005