Reply – Re: Speech Therapy
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Re: Speech Therapy
— by Kaz Kaz
You know...

A few weeks back I went to a talk about speech therapy by an SLP. And it started off surprisingly well - a lot of talk about how every stutterer is on their own journey, about the importance of trying to reduce avoidance and be comfortable with your stutter, and so on. She was talking a lot about working with the stutterer to find the result that's best for them and all that sort of thing that you people are associating with the "good" SLPs... I was almost relaxing.

And then, when she was talking about voluntary stuttering, things got weird. For one, I'd always assumed that voluntary stuttering was just that - stuttering on purpose when you weren't going to, for nice things like taking back control over your speech, intentionally disavowing fluency as a goal, becoming more comfortable with your stutter, etc. But here she was talking about how voluntary stuttering meant taking the tension out, how there was discussion among SLPs about whether you could/should voluntary stutter repetitions or only prolongations (uh, dude, my natural stutter is about 98% repetitions, what the hell are you saying only prolongations work as voluntary stutters-) and even a smiling remark about how in her experience, trying a voluntary stutter on prolongations often meant people stuttered less afterwards-

And while I was reeling from *that*, she said something like "see, the important thing is to pull away all the layers of anxiety and avoidance and fear so that we can dig down to the actual stutter and address *that*." That's not quite it, I don't remember what it was exactly, but it left me thinking:

Oh. Right. You're trying to make people fluent.

You're dressing it up in very nice language, you may not admit that's what you're after, you may not even really *realise* that's what you're after, but you've just said that the problem with avoidance and anxiety isn't that it makes people miserable but that it gets in the way of dealing with the actual stutter - that the point after you get rid of avoidance and anxiety isn't "okay, job done, happy stutterer!" but when you can really get to work and tackle the core symptoms.

Frankly, I'd rather talk to someone doing fluency shaping. At least they're honest about what they're doing.

Whiiiich is really my whole problem with what Brooke and Jack are talking about. With all due respect, the idea that SLPs should be teaching people to embrace their stutters comes off a bit like saying cosmetic surgeons are optimally situated to teach people body acceptance. They might talk a good game, they might even sincerely believe they're doing what they can and that what's on offer is simply a last resort, but do you *really* think it's an appropriate venue? That the brochures and before/after pictures of what they can do won't have an effect? That a little "and if you really can't come to terms with this, we happen to offer these surgical services..." might not slip in?

Fluency as superior, fluency as an end goal is SO deeply embedded in everyone's psyches, you are really *that confident* the idea won't affect what you're doing?

(And, of course, things fall apart entirely when we get to the idea of e.g. fatphobia as an institutional discrimination and discussing and resisting that - which is probably the metaphor's equivalent of stuttering as a disability and taking a disability rights approach that Josh and co are doing here.)

If I wanted professional help dealing with my feelings about my stutter, I'd go to a convential therapist - NOT an SLP. Because then I could be certain that they wouldn't slip in a little "oh how about you try this technique" and know they're far less likely to set themselves up as the expert on how I should best deal with my stutter. But honestly, I am doing absolutely fine with just me and my local stuttering community.

And none of this is addressing the whole part where speech therapy is mandatory for stuttering kids. I always find the talk about acceptance and being happy with your stutter as an end goal for speech therapy ironic, because that's actually how I *started out* - I was the most supremely self-confident stuttering kid you can imagine - but I certainly didn't get to opt out of speech therapy. And in fact, it was speech therapy that ruined those feelings for me.