Whether your client is just talking to their best friend about stuttering for the first time, or ready to take on a big crowd of strangers, surveys about stuttering can be a useful tool. Our founder, Catherine Montgomery, encountered this activity at Dorv Breitenfeldt’s Successful Stuttering Management Program and replicated it at our NYC office, and we’ve been using it ever since!
Giving a stuttering survey is only a little bit about learning the answers to the survey questions. Yes, it can be enlightening to learn what your mother thinks causes stuttering, or what your cousin thinks might help. But much more important than that is the fact that you are having a conversation about stuttering. Talking openly about what may have felt like a taboo subject is a huge step toward desensitization, and can clear the air of fears about what others might be thinking.
How to do it
The stuttering survey is a desensitization challenge, so be sure to check your client’s comfort level before proceeding. Then, identify target people to survey. The ideal candidates are those with whom the client might feel just a little trepidatious (not outright fearful) about discussing stuttering. A good sign you’re on the right track is if you hear the client say something like, “You know, I’m not sure why I’ve never brought it up with this person before.”
Then, work with your client to script an introduction along with a few questions. It might look something like:
“As part of my speech therapy I’m doing a survey about stuttering. Could I ask you a few questions?
What do you think causes stuttering?
What do you think people who stutter can do to improve?
What questions have you had about my stuttering?”
After they give the surveys, you’ll want to reflect with them on two things. First, the answers they received: what surprised them? How did it feel to hear that Aunt Mildred thinks they should slow down and take a deep breath? Often, this reflection provides an opportunity to consider how the general public understands stuttering, and establish the client’s identity as the stuttering expert in most situations. Second, help them reflect on how they felt before, during and after these interactions. Don’t forget to validate any worries they had, and reinforce the courage they showed in talking openly about stuttering.
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 Minneapolis, MN, and services are also available online. Our mission extends to advancing public and scholarly understanding of this often misunderstood disorder.
Photo by DariaPimkina on Unsplash
Margaret Miller, M.A., CCC-SLP
Margaret is a speech therapist at the AIS Atlanta office. A strong advocate for client-centered therapy, Margaret works with each individual to craft a personalized treatment approach.