Thursday, September 20, 2012

"Voice Unearthed" Confuses Parents

Shortly after my book, “Voice Unearthed” was published, a leader in the field of speech therapy for children who stutter expressed concern that my message would “only confuse parents.”  I don’t disagree – and I believe this is a good thing.  We often become confused when we gain information that challenges our current belief system.  Confusion forces us to make the time and space to reflect and to seek further understanding.    

It was exactly this confusion that motivated me to spend six years researching and writing “Voice Unearthed.”  This book was written to help those dealing with this issue articulate their concerns and move forward in demanding and creating better strategies.  

Last Sunday our Unitarian pastor complimented us on how, by coming to church and sitting quietly for an hour, we were making time, thus space, for ourselves.  Creating this space in our lives often leads to reflection and increased awareness.  Confusion is one path to that essential place.

When I was running Eli back and forth to speech therapy twice a week, sitting down with him every day to have “special time,”  finding time for his older brothers, homeschooling, working, keeping everyone fed and watered and keeping up a house, I had little time to reflect.  One week the speech therapist had a family emergency and we suddenly had six additional hours of free time.  It was literally during this week that my level of discomfort and confusion surfaced.  I had the space and time to reflect on how the extraordinary level of energy and resources we were putting into therapy compared to what we were getting in return.  Of course I hoped it would all pay off in the long run, but deep down I think I knew better. 

The National Stuttering Association admits that their surveys indicate that “84% experienced a relapse after improving their fluency in therapy.”

And what does this relapse do – especially to a school-aged child who so wants to please?  Each time they make a speech error, in their minds they have relapsed.  Daily, hourly, each and every minute this is the world they live in.  Filled with fear of failure, of shame, of embarrassment because they failed to use their tool box to avoid the dreaded speech error.  This expectation is not only developmentally inappropriate – but does far more harm than good. 

Many parents and speech therapists have shared with me that they were never comfortable with the instruction and guidance they were getting.  Increasing parents’ and speech therapists’ awareness of the level of disagreement, chaos, and confusion that reigns amongst professionals and researchers SHOULD result in an increased discomfort with how kids who stutter are treated.  Call it confusion or call it frustration, I call it all good because the more parents and speech therapists who find themselves uncomfortable with the current state of therapy, the more quickly much needed change will come about. 

Thank you for your interest and keep them talking!

Dori Lenz Holte

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Keep Our Eye on the Prize

As some of you know, I get a little crazy when I hear the word “manage” connected with children’s speech.  Parents are continually told by support organizations that speech therapy cannot cure stuttering, but can help the child learn to “manage” their stutter.  In the May/June edition of the National Stuttering Association’s “Family Voices,” Nina Reardon, a well-known leader in this field, responds to a question from a parent concerned that her child is switching out words that might be easier in an attempt to avoid stuttering.  Reardon states “Overtime, it can begin to take more effort to avoid a stutter than to stutter openly, or manage a moment of stuttering.” 

Even if Ms. Reardon did not mean to suggest that managing a moment of stuttering takes a similar amount of effort as stuttering openly, this type of rhetoric serves to convince parents and speech therapists there are children out there who are effortlessly using their speech techniques and everyone should invest in this type of therapy.

Reardon asks this parent to consider what their child would want or need from their listeners that would help them deal with their stuttering in the long term.  She says “I pose the question this way, because as those who live in the world of stuttering, we must keep our eyes on the ‘long-term’ prize.  Many times, we do what we think will help in the moment but forget to consider the long-term ramifications.”  I couldn’t agree more.  Yes, the use of speech tools and techniques can help a child in the moment – just like switching words can help in the moment, but this unrealistic expectation runs a tremendous risk of increasing anxiety around speaking, thus exacerbating the issue.  Rather than improve communication, the long-term ramifications are increasing silence, disengagement, and a growing sense of failure. 

National support organizations, in general, do a wonderful job encouraging kids to engage, helping parents to cope, and creating a sense of community for those connected with this issue.  Now is the time to eliminate the expectations of children using speech tools and techniques and focus on helping parents to understand how they can minimize anxiety around talking.   I am convinced that recovery rates would soar – maybe up to the 80% spontaneous recovery rate preschoolers experience – when therapists focus on helping parents and teachers minimize anxiety around talking and do not attempt to arm children with a tool box of techniques.    

Although many are on a different page when it comes to the value of speech tools and techniques in therapy for children who stutter – but I have absolutely no doubt that we are all on the same page when it comes to defining “long-term prize.”  We want kids who are happy, engaged, confident, and giving.   Yes – let’s keep our eye on the prize and focus on keeping them talking!

Doreen Lenz Holte

Monday, September 10, 2012

I'm Back And Thank You For Support (with corrected Yahoo group link).

Happy Fall to everyone – my favorite time of year!  After taking the summer off to focus on my health (doing better, thank you), I’m back to blogging.   I so appreciate the feedback I've gotten from readers of my blog and my book.  There are several additional options for engaging in this conversation with me and others who care about children who stutter.    
-  If you are a therapist and would like to join in the conversation, go to

My book, “Voice Unearthed: Hope, Help, and a Wake-Up Call for the Parents of Children Who Stutter” has especially resonated with school-based speech therapists.  Many of these dedicated professionals feel at a loss when it comes to treating children who stutter, especially considering the parameters bestowed upon them in the school setting.  I have started a Yahoo Group for therapists who have concerns about children using speech techniques and tools, and would rather focus on keeping kids talking.   They are sharing ideas about goals, measurements, IEP’s, activities focused on encouraging communication, and success stories.  

-  Parents are also invited to share concerns, ideas, and success stories at

This group has not been as active, but I know, from the number of parents who have connected with me that there is a desire to connect with others who are exploring options for their child who stutters.  So let’s get the conversation going!  We need to keep talking about how to keep them talking!

For the moment these two groups will be separate.  I want each group to be as comfortable as possible when expressing their concerns and successes.  If information is published that could benefit both groups, I will, with author’s permission, cross pollinate…

Conversations on both of these Yahoo Groups will inspire blog topics.  I will also be sharing my opinions about what I'm reading in professional journals, on national support organizations' websites and publications, and my own ideas about keeping kids talking.    

 So thank you all for your ongoing support -- let's work hard to keep those kids talking!!

Doreen Lenz Holte