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A Parent's Question: Why Does My Child Still Stutter Even Though He is in Therapy?

Ask the Expert by Greg Snyder
This article was written for parents of stutterers. It would be an excellent choice to share with the parents of the students you treat.
All material Copyright © 2008 The National Stuttering Association
Reprinted here with their express permission as originally published on their website.
By: Greg Snyder
Greg Snyder– NSA Greg Snyder, Ph.D., has been an NSA member since 1997 and an assistant professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders since 2003. Some of Greg’s current research includes the development of inexpensive fluency enhancing prosthetic devices, as well as documenting stuttering in other (non-speech) expressive modalities. He lives with his wife, Courtney, and daughter, Ella, in Oxford, Mississippi.
QUESTION: What do I say to my friends when they ask me why my son stutters and how come it isn’t going away even though he is in therapy?
ANSWER: This is a rather profound question, because it represents three sentiments rolled into one question. These sentiments include: (1) How do I respond to others about my child’s stuttering? (2) Why does my child stutter? (3) Why does my child continue to stutter despite stuttering therapy? Each of these sentiments is worthy of a response.
How do I respond to others about my child’s stuttering?
One of the best things a parent can do for their child who is stuttering is to serve as positive role models of self (and stuttering) acceptance and advocacy. Stated differently, children often look to their parents to learn how they should think and feel about stuttering. If parents approach and discuss stuttering in a healthy, open, honest and shame-free manner, then the children often assume this perspective. Similarly, parents that view stuttering as shameful, ugly or handicapping may raise a child who views stuttering (and ultimately themselves) in a similar fashion. In short, it is important that parents model an open, healthy, positive, and shame-free attitude about stuttering, because this will teach many children who stutter how to think and feel about stuttering, and ultimately themselves. So when others ask about your son’s stuttering, I would suggest using it as a teachable moment for both your friend and your son by educating others about stuttering in an honest, open, empowered and shame-free manner.
Why does my child stutter?
First, stuttering is not your fault. Please allow this to be reiterated: There is not a single piece of credible research suggesting that parents can cause stuttering. Period. Second, stuttering is not your child’s fault. There is no credible evidence suggesting that stuttering is caused by some type of character flaw or psychological weakness. While researchers cannot definitively cite the cause of developmental stuttering (or persistent developmental stuttering), research is pointing towards genetics and neurological processing errors as the likely causal culprits.
Why does my child continue to stutter despite stuttering therapy?
When we do not know what causes stuttered speech, it is exceedingly difficult (if not impossible) to reliably “cure” stuttering. However, approximately 80% of young children naturally outgrow stuttering within about 1 to 5 years from onset; unfortunately, researchers and clinicians are currently unable to reliably predict which children will and will not outgrow stuttering. Consequently, most preschool aged stuttering therapy programs are designed to foster this natural recovery process from stuttering.
And as an aside, parents should feel free to ask questions (and particularly this question) to their speech pathologist. Any proficient Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) knows this question is coming, and they should be prepared with a thoughtful and accurate response. Further, parents should not be afraid to trust their instincts; sometimes, changing SLPs may be beneficial for everyone involved. This should not be interpreted that the original SLP was ineffective or otherwise inadequate, but rather to suggest that a change in perspective and approach may result in better results.
Ultimately, current stuttering therapies can provide powerful results in managing (i.e., limiting) stuttering behaviors, but since the precise cause of stuttering remains unknown, stuttering therapies continue to struggle at eliminating the pathology altogether.
So in conclusion, an open, honest, educated, empowered and shame-free attitude toward stuttering is a great path to follow as you raise a child who is stuttering. Using questions from others as teaching moments to demonstrate stuttering awareness, acceptance and advocacy will also create a positive foundation for your child’s development, regardless if your child recovers from stuttering or not.
Featured Organization: The National Stuttering Association
We thank the National Stuttering Association for allowing us to reprint their copyrighted article. For more information about this organization please visit the National Stuttering Association

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