This is the continuation of a 3 part journal of a mother whose child began stuttering at a young age. Part 1 is here.
May 28, 2013 – Openness
As a person who stutters (PWS) I have learned to be open about my stuttering. I became involved in self-help groups at the age of fifteen and that was the first time that I started to talk about my stuttering. I have shared my story with probably 1000s of others through self-help groups, conferences, newsletters and now the internet. I have also shared my story many times with ISTAR clients and supporters. I’m an ISTAR success story and am proud of what I have accomplished. I typically do not announce that I stutter but if I am asked about my speech will happily share my story. Stuttering and my experiences are just part of my life and I talk about it just like how someone may talk about their experiences playing hockey while growing up.
I have continued with this mindset when talking about E’s speech. It’s just part of who he is and stuttering is not anything to be ashamed of so let’s talk about it. Perhaps that is why I am blogging our present experiences. I hope that by being open and sharing my experiences and emotions that others will find this process easier.
May 30, 2013 – Retraining the Brain
We have just completed week one of the consolidation phase – no therapy session, just us continuing what we have been doing and easing back on the structured activities. So far E is dong awesome.
My mom and I have talked about how easily he is stretching his speech. She has watched me slow my rate and “gear down” my brain when I am stuttering and after many years, I am a pro at this. I just lapse in and out of minimal fluency skill use and a slower rate without even being aware that I am doing it. E has started to do this on his own. We were in the car the other day and I commented to him “look E, there’s a goose on the sidewalk”, he then commented to me “I see a goose too” (using a little stretch). I was not modeling stretch and had not made any suggestion to him about stretching but he stretched his sentences for about five minutes then said “I’m good at stretchy speech” and picked up his rate a little more. He’s done this with Nana too.
I’ve done a lot of clinical work with children with speech-motor learning difficulties and therapy for them involves reprogramming their brains for speech (very simplistic explanation!). Many children with speech-motor difficulties develop stuttering and this was no surprise to me since I can see the brain reprogramming as what happens with fluency skills. Learning fluency skills and prolongations (aka stretchy speech) as a young adult was not easy and I had a lot of years of stuttering habits to overcome – a lot of new brain programming. E has only a few months of stuttering so the reprogramming is easier – neuroplasticity of the brain. I’m going to help him reprogram his brain so stretchy speech is his default; his first language and the stuttering is overridden.
The SLP has suggested that I move away from the structured activities that I have been using with E with practice his stretch, but intuitively I feel that he needs that structure to reprogram that brain just like my speech-motor learning clients need repetition of the same words. He is taking that structured practice “I see..” “Mommy likes..” and applying it to day to day activities. It’s these phrases that he is stretching and being fluent on so now I just keep building more and more stretchy words and phrases to his repertoire by modeling and repeating.
All this reflecting about stuttering and speech-motor learning is going to have me thinking about getting my docorate in speech pathology.
June 5, 2013 – Making time for Practice
E has continued to do amazing with his speech. We are hearing very few stutters each day and E is not reacting to them at all. It is wonderful to see my happy little boy chattering again.
We are suppose to continue to do daily practice activities each day and it is challenging to find/make the time to do these. When you hear stutters in every spoken sentence it is easy and necessary to find the time to do the practice, but when the words are flowing it is easy for the day to fly by. I think it would be easier to make the time if it wasn’t June and we were not spending so much time outdoors. I have tried to incorporate speech activities into what we are doing outside, but that is often not too successful as E would rather just run and play.
I have enjoyed the one-on-one speech activities with E and try to use a slower rate and have a conversation with him each morning. It may be as simple as talking about what he can have for breakfast and what we are planning to do for the day. I find that this speech-focussed conversation is a good start to the day for my speech as well. In the afternoon, I like to take a few minutes to have another conversation at a slower rate or to play a game – just something to slow down the day as much as a way to focus on his speech.
June 12, 2013 – Stutter-Free
For the last two week, we have heard E stutter very few times. I would say that most of the stutters that we have heard have been just normal disfluencies. It feels wonderful to not wake up thinking about E’s speech and to not go to bed worrying about how tomorrow will be.
Did E have developmental stuttering and outgrew it? Did the early therapy reshape/rewire the brain so the stuttering did not become chronic, life-long stuttering? Will the stuttering reappear? I have a lot of questions and no answers. I’m not sure if anyone could answer these questions. I know that I would not have been confortable waiting 6 months to see if E’s stuttering would disappear and thus was developmental.
I’ve always said that my stuttering was like something in my brain short circuited and watching E stutter, I could almost see that happening. By prolonging my speech and using fluency skills, I could reduce the short circuiting and feel in control of my speech. With E, it is like his brain has used that stretchy speech to fix the circuits and now there is no more shorting out.
Whatever has happened is good!
August 17, 2013
It has been over two months now since I felt the need to sit at my computer and write. A lot has happened during this time and speech-wise it has all been positive for E. We had a trip to BC to visit family at the end of June and I was very concerned that E would have another peak of stuttering since our last trip to BC caused his stuttering to peak. Well, we all had a great time visiting family and camping, but most importantly my little boy just kept on chattering. There was no stuttering and very little signs of being anxious about talking.
At the end of July, we had a review session with E’s SLP. I had recorded a sample of E talking a few days before the session to take with us just in case he decided not to talk. He was very talkative during the session and no stuttering. There was also no stuttering in the sample I had recorded at home. I was so proud at how well he was doing and listening to E chatter is like music to my ears. We have another review session with the SLP in three months and if all is still going well then in six months.
I know that there is going to be a lot of change in our lives in the next few months and this may impact E’s speech and if it does then we know how to work with him to make his speech smooth.
This will be my last post for a while…. Keep talking.