For clinicians, finding activities for stuttering therapy can be a little tricky. It’s not the most common speech goal that we target. Sometimes, we don’t feel super confident when working with these students, since it might not be our area of expertise.
Plus, the research lately has been a little all over the place. Do we even work on stuttering anymore? Is it “ableist” or will it make it worse on their little psyches to teach them strategies? These are all things that run through my brain.
Stuttering Therapy Components
For me, there have always been three components to stuttering therapy: social/emotional learning, education, and stuttering modification or strategies. For older kids (like 2nd grade and up) the emphasis we may put on one particular area will mostly depend on one thing: the student’s personal communication goals.
I try to let them lead as much as I’m able. It’s important for them to start to take ownership of their therapy and express what they want out of it as they get older. However, we do need to be in tune with their social/emotional needs and ask good probing questions (or even do an assessment) to see where they are at.
Self-advocacy is an important skill for any student, especially students who stutter. I want all of my kids to learn this but I place more emphasis on it when:
1) The student is not bothered by their stuttering and wants others to accept them for who they are.
2) The student still has negative reactions to their stuttering and needs to feel empowered to accept themselves and educate others.
When you teach self-advocacy, you are helping students to:
- Develop confident attitudes
- Have higher self-esteem and self-acceptance
- Develop better social skills
- Decrease negative attitudes about stuttering
- Focus on personal communication goals more easily
Here are six different self-advocacy activities for stuttering therapy and ways you can teach them to defend their needs.
1. Role-play difficult situations
Students might be able to tell you how they want others to react to their stuttering, but it’s not always easy when they are in the moment. By role-playing different situations, the student can figure out how to use their voice and find the words to advocate for themselves. They can develop their own responses to use next time.
2. Teach self-disclosure
Self-disclosure is when a person who stutters tells the listener that they often stutter. Research has shown that self-disclosure “facilitates the stutterer’s acceptance of his or her own stuttering”(Bajaj 2017). In order to advocate for what you need, it’s important to be comfortable talking about it.
Practice self-disclosure by helping the child come up with specific statements to tell others that they stutter.
3. Help them to educate important people in their lives about stuttering
This is the part where education and social/emotional learning overlap. They can use the knowledge they have about stuttering and share it with others.
This can be in the form of writing a letter or email to a parent or teacher. The students could also create a poster or do a presentation to educate others about what stuttering is and what others can do to help those who stutter.
4. Show them how to take an active role in creating a safe and nurturing environment in their home and school
As they educate others, it’s also important to explain how to create a positive communication environment. They are part of this environment too, so when you talk about the attributes of a positive, comfortable environment, they need to make sure they are doing their part as well.
Furthermore, Teach them to be a strong model and show others how to speak respectfully and kindly to others by doing it themselves. Write down all the ways to create a safe environment together, then share it with their classmates.
5. Empower them to stand up to bullying and teasing
Bullying and teasing can be unfortunate side effects of school, and students who stutter are often an easy target. It can be harder for those who stutter to respond verbally. Sometimes stuttering increases in those difficult situations. Plus, a hostile environment can make stuttering more severe all around.
Role-playing is a great way to practice responding to teasing or bullying. This again allows the student to come up with their own words and ways to respond. I love this article by Stuttering Therapy Resources on minimizing bullying and teasing. It gives ideas on how SLPs can talk about it with their students as well.
6. Teach them problem-solving skills
Sometimes kids just need good problem-solving skills. I do this for kids who stutter by talking about hypothetical scenarios. We discuss what they might do in a given situation and what an appropriate response would be. This also gives them the opportunity to think things through and practice solving problems on their own.
I hope you found some of these self-advocacy activities for stuttering helpful. If you’re feeling overwhelmed about adding self-advocacy into your therapy sessions and need a boost, check out this resource.
The Self-Advocacy Activities for Stuttering packet includes several ways to teach self-advocacy to students who stutter through role-playing, educating others, learning self-disclosure, problem-solving situations, and more!
A few things we love about it:
- It is research-based and tackles the difficult social/emotional aspect of stuttering therapy.
- It helps a student decrease their negative attitudes about stuttering, which makes it easier for them to focus on their communication goals.
- It includes easy-to-implement activities and tasks that help clinicians confidently navigate stuttering therapy.
- Kids enjoy the activities and feel more empowered afterward!
Check it out and let me know what you think! Do you teach self-advocacy in your speech sessions?
Bajaj G, Anil MA, Varghese A, Bhat JS, Sheth P, Hoode A. Me, My Stuttering, and Them! Effect of Self-Disclosure of Stuttering on Listener Perception. Rehabilitation Process and Outcome. 2017;6.