Monday, December 27, 2010

"The King's Speech" is really about relationships...

Our family saw the movie "The King's Speech" about King George VI who stuttered and unexpectedly became King of England in the 1930's after his brother abdicated to marry a divorced American "commoner."

The movie does a wonderful job of depicting the Herculean effort the King put into making a speech without speech errors.  Therapists often tell their young clients that "it's okay to stutter," and promptly follow that up with stickers and praise for making fewer speech errors.  These kids might as well be King George IV needing to make public speeches when it comes to the pressure they will put on themselves to please us and not make speech errors.  They either attempt (and most often fail) to put this level of effort into speaking, or they choose silence. Either way, their genuine level of engagement in their world diminishes.  Sadly, this is often the result of today's therapy for children that focuses primarily on minimizing speech errors.

The outcome of the movie (and the true-life story) is that King George VI was ultimately able to speak publicly with few if any speech errors.  The heart of the movie (and true-life story) is one of friendship and mutual respect.  King George VI found a good friend and listener in Lionel Logue, a maverick actor turned self-proclaimed speech therapist.  Lionel Logue grew to appreciate and enjoy King George VI, not for the quality of his speech, but for the person he truly was.  The real story is about an extraordinary relationship the evolves between these two men. 

We, as parents, must advocate to ensure that the support we choose for our children who stutter results in genuine engagement and meaningful relationships, not simply error-free speech or silence.  Raisa Gorbachev once said "Youth is, after all, just a moment, but it is the moment, the spark, that you always carry in your heart.”  We must keep the spark burning brightly - as parents, that's our #1 priority!

Happy 2011,
Doreen Lenz Holte

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Introducing "Voice Unearthed - A Parent's Perspective on Therapy for Children Who Stutter

Hello -  my name is Doreen Lenz Holte, and within the next several months I will be publishing "Voice Unearthed - A Parent's Perspective on Therapy for Children Who Stutter."  Our son, who is now 14, began stuttering when he was 2 1/2.  By the time he was 9, he could barely get a word out.  Over the years, his struggle progressed from developmental to mild to moderate to severe.  We enlisted the support of several therapists, some "certified" by the American Speech and Hearing Association, some not.  Either way, his struggle grew worse and he grew increasingly silent. 

We finally walked away from the type of therapy that  focused on making fewer speech errors and embraced an approach that focused on keeping him talking and keeping talking fun.  Today he still stutters, but with much less struggle.  Today he talks...and talks...and talks.  We now focus on creating opportunities for talking to be fun and less stressful, instead of using techniques designed to eliminate speech errors.  This change of direction gave us our son back, and gave our son back his willingness to fully engage in his world.

Our story is about going way out of our comfort zone to find help that led to positive outcomes instead of an unrelenting negative progression this mysterious affliction imposed on our son.  We began where most parents begin, in the sterile setting of a speech therapist’s office, but ended up in the not-so-sterile ranch house of a quirky divorced cowboy surrounded by horse paraphernalia accented with pictures of near-naked babes. We also found the guidance of an emotive Italian singer and Stuttering John of Howard Stern fame of great value along the way.

In addition to our journey, "Voice Unearthed" also encompasses the results of five years of research into why the type of therapy that's offered up today  is considered "best practice" and embraced by well-meaning speech therapists, even when the results, especially for children, are so dismal. 

This book is primarily for parents - so they, as consumers, can be far better informed than we were when considering speech therapy for a child who is exhibiting stuttering behaviors.   This book is for parents whose child is in the midst of speech therapy, struggling with attempts to use their speech techniques, and starting to shut down.  This book is also for anyone who may interact with a child who stutters including relatives, school staff, pediatricians, family practice doctors, and especially speech therapists and students of speech therapy.

To be put on the distribution list for "Voice Unearthed: A Parent's Perspective on Therapy for Children Who Stutter" or to be notified of other updates around this project, please email    I look forward to hearing from you!

Doreen Lenz Holte