Speech-Language Pathology/Stuttering/Teenage Stuttering

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I am a mother of a stuttering thirteen-year-old boy. Stuttering really had never bothered him until this year. It is very frustrating for him to talk on the phone. His friends call all the time but he has refrained from talking on the phone because his stuttering seems to get worse. My husband and I have noticed him withdrawing from his peers. We have always had an active role with his stuttering. He has been to a lot of speech-language pathologists and we have also tried the CAFET [biofeedback computer] system. This was helping him. Unfortunately the closest center was more than two hours away. After one year it was too stressful on him missing too much school. Because of this we had to stop. Since then he has wanted nothing to do with speech-language pathologists.

Parents of teenagers who stutter tell similar stories:

  • The teenager has been seeing his school's speech-language pathologists for five or even ten years. His speech isn't improving. He wants to discontinue speech therapy.
  • He's fluent in the speech-language pathologist's office, but stutters everywhere else.
  • The parents have taken him to other speech clinics, without success.
  • He used to have good speech attitudes, saying whatever he wanted. Now he fears and avoids certain words or speaking situations.
  • His social behavior has changed. He's withdrawing from social contacts.

Previously he saw himself as being like most other kids, doing the same things as other kids. School-age boys' social activities, e.g., baseball, don't demand much talking. Now he thinks of himself as a stutterer, different from other teenagers. Teenagers' social activities, e.g., dating or getting an after-school job, are harder for a stutterer.

Your teenager is an adult, in terms of stuttering. He should be doing adult stuttering therapy. This can include:

  • Psychological stuttering therapy, training fluent speech (physical) skills.
  • A support group for teenagers who stutter.
  • An intensive speech therapy program or a summer camp for teenagers who stutter. (Google "speech camp for teens who stutter.")

Develop a Passion[edit]

In the chapter Famous People Who Stutter, you'll learn that many celebrities developed their talents during high school as a result of stuttering. E.g.,

  • James Earl Jones, Bruce Willis, and Nicholas Brendan overcame stuttering through acting.
  • Carly Simon developed her skills as a singer and a songwriter because she couldn't talk about her feelings.

When a teenager feels passion for an activity, he or she can focus with greater intensity than adults. Your job, as a parent, is to help your teenager focus on a speech-positive activity, instead of focusing on video games or memorizing Black Sabbath lyrics.

Help your teenager become passionately involved in activities that require talking, improve his fluency, and develop his social skills. Such activities include:

  • Singing.
  • Acting.
  • Sports.
  • Debating.
  • Foreign languages.
  • Organizing a teenage stuttering support group.
  • A science project about stuttering.

Involve Peers in Speech Therapy[edit]

Are your teenage clients less than enthusiastic about speech therapy? Well, duh, if you're a speech-language pathologist then you're at least 25! You might even be over 30! Why would a teenage want to talk to someone your age?

Instead, have a teenage stutterer bring a friend to speech therapy. He'll talk to his friend about skateboarding or video games or other stuff you're clueless about. Better yet, you can train the friend to give your client a subtle reminder when he needs to slow down or get back on-target.

Or role-play the teenager asking a peer out on a date. He can ask her for her telephone number by saying that his speech therapist wants him to practice making telephone calls. I used to do something like this: I met a girlfriend by telling her that my speech therapist wanted me to introduce myself to strangers.

Paramount in teenagers' minds is connecting to peers (other teenagers), e.g., being seen as "cool" by their classmates. Use speech therapy as way to connect to peers and your teenager will want to do speech therapy. E.g., instead of (thinking of himself as) being seen as a boy who stutters, help your teenager think of himself as a boy who's not afraid to ask girls for their telephone numbers and ask them out on dates.

Learn American Sign Language[edit]

I took four years of German in high school and college. The classes were taught in a conversational style. Being unable to talk, I learned nothing. No one suggested that I study American Sign Language instead. I could have been 100% fluent in that! Being good at something would have improved my self-esteem. In contrast, I felt like the stupidest person in the German classes. And if I learned sign language I would've made friends in the deaf community, or maybe worked part-time as a sign language interpreter.--Thomas David Kehoe 02:12, 28 March 2006 (UTC)