Friday, July 15, 2022

Raising Hackles

Miracle of miracles: I had energy yesterday and I needed it!

I watered all the plants and trees of Pinecone Park and stacked all the wood we split on Wednesday. Then I had a quick lunch before I went to work on the articles for the clinic. I worked on one article, a history of the development of the clinic, for five hours straight. And I have five other articles to write, so I’m hoppin’.

In the evening I watched another play by the National Theatre—Everyman. It was a powerful and wonderful production. Then did some more work on clinic stuff and then went to bed early to read more about my man Bruno.

Today I’ll be working all day on clinic stuff. 

My writing about stuttering is making waves.

Many speech therapists belong to stuttering organizations, so my article is raising hackles. But it’s not just my point of view in the article. I wrote it because of consensus amongst my BC stuttering group on the subject. Virtually our entire last session was about the things I’ve said in the article. 

I wrote a letter that my BC group wants to send to professional associations for speech language pathologists and therapists. Here is what I wrote. It’s a draft document. It has to be approved by the group and we want to send it to the Canadian Stuttering Association for their perusal before we send it out. But here it is….


We, the authors of this appeal, are a group of adults who stutter and who meet monthly as a stuttering support group. We are seeking the assistance of associations of speech language professionals; we wish to inform their individual members about the importance of referring late adolescent and adult clients to stuttering support organizations and stuttering support groups. The collective experience of our members is that currently, many, if not most, speech language professionals are currently not directing young adult clients to our association.

Many of us are ambivalent about our experience with speech therapy—but not the therapists. We who’ve had contact with a speech language therapist in late adolescence or early adulthood feel that our therapy either failed or faded. We regret that our therapists were focused on improving our speech and did not consider a conversation about acceptance and adaptation as part of their practice.

In the presence of a speech therapist, we feel pressure to speak better, to conform to normal speech, to be fixed. And when we cannot do it, both the therapist and client feel frustrated. From our experience, we felt people around us wanted our speech to improve.  We wondered: Is it for their sake or ours that people want our speech normalized? We stutterers are often pressured to take therapy by family and friends with good intentions, and then we find ourselves in the care of someone who wants to, but cannot, ‘fix’ us. 

Statistics tell us that if we continue to stutter past puberty, we are likely to stutter forever. We feel that therapists should not aim to ‘fix’ our speech; we think they should want to ‘fix’ us—our whole person. Therapists should help those of us who continue to stutter, or begin to stutter in late adolescence and adulthood, to accept our condition and find a path to comfort with our condition and an ability to thrive. We think the desires of the stutterer should shape and drive our therapy, not the therapist. We are not often asked what we want, how we can best be assisted. Instead, the assumption is to aim for normalized speech.

We regret that acceptance of our condition was not an option presented to us by our therapists. And we regret that we weren’t directed by our therapists to the stuttering associations and their affiliated support groups. Support groups provide valuable lessons of self-acceptance and communication adaptations. We learn in them how to live fully without shame, we get tips on how to present in job interviews, how to best function in educational institutions and we get access to global experts in research into stuttering through our conferences. Speech language professionals should be referring clients to stuttering associations. We earnestly believe that to do so is in the best interest of late adolescent and adult stutterers. 

Our organization and support groups are not for everyone, but for many, especially those living alone or needing emotional support, we can be a very valuable and powerfully emotional resource. All of us who drafted this communication can attest to the value of stuttering support groups to our overall wellbeing. 

Can you please help us spread word to your individual members about the Canadian Stuttering Association and our support groups? We’d be very, very grateful if you would!

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