When children who stutter tell us about difficult situations they encounter, it can be frustrating because they don’t bring these situations with them into the therapy room. But what if we could do just that? Using skits and dialogues can be handy for re-creating life challenges within the safe space of speech therapy. Here are three ways they might be used:
Practicing feared situations
If a child is terrified of ordering their own food at a restaurant, or giving a presentation in class, there’s no reason they have to practice in the real world first. The speech therapist can be the server/clerk/teacher and provide an opportunity to practice in a safe space. Let the child take a turn acting the grown-up part, too. It can help them see the other party as a human being, instead of an imposing stranger to be feared.
Brainstorming possible behavior
Writing scripts together can be a great opportunity to help children explore all the possibilities - the good, the bad, and the ugly. For example, if you’re writing a script for how a child might react if they are called on during a frequent-stuttering day, include the extreme options: they might dig a hole in the ground and tunnel to escape, they might give a 12-hour speech on an unrelated topic, etc. It’s silly fun, but it can also get kids thinking outside of the idea that there is a “right” or necessary way to behave. Everyone has options! Once you have a good list going, help the child think through the consequences of each behavior and choose an option that feels right. Then script it out and act it through! You might also use this opportunity to think about possible results, good and bad. It can be empowering to imagine a worst-case scenario and come up with a plan for that unlikely event.
Planning for self-advocacy
We can all feel intimidated when we need to ask for something for ourselves. Helping a child to plan what they might say can help increase their sense of self-efficacy when it comes to communicating with others. What if a student needs more time to think of an answer? How about if someone gives them the wrong flavor of soda at the movie theater? By scripting assertiveness, we can help clients learn how to speak up for themselves when it really matters.
The American Institute for Stuttering is a leading non-profit organization whose primary mission is to provide universally affordable, state-of-the-art speech therapy to people of all ages who stutter, guidance to their families, and much-needed clinical training to speech professionals wishing to gain expertise in stuttering. Offices are located in New York, NY, Atlanta, GA, and Los Angeles, CA, and services are also available online. Our mission extends to advancing public and scholarly understanding of this often misunderstood disorder.