We often write about how important it is to address the cognitive and emotional aspects of stuttering. But how do we do that with kids (and sometimes adults!) who don’t have much experience explaining their feelings? As therapists, teaching this skill is time well used.
For younger kids, a few basic emotions work best. Search for “feelings thermometer” and you’ll find a number of useful diagrams. We also love our set of plush dolls of the characters from Inside Out as a more tangible aid! For older kids, more complex offerings can be found by searching “feelings wheel.” You can choose from a variety of options depending on your client’s needs.
Regardless of which tool you’re using, start very concrete. For example, you might read a story, pausing at key moments and using your tool to imagine how the character is feeling. Next, build up to talking about the client’s own feelings. You can do a check-in at the beginning of each session to see how you are both feeling today. When it’s your turn, don’t always pick “happy”; instead, model a healthy variety of emotions. You might also try creating a spinner that selects emotions at random, then taking turns with the client to think of times in your lives when you have felt that way.
By doing this, you provide the vocabulary for talking about emotions, and normalize the idea that all emotions are acceptable. In addition to being valuable in its own right, this lays the groundwork for more productive conversations about the emotions of 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 Los Angeles, CA, and services are also available online. Our mission extends to advancing public and scholarly understanding of this often misunderstood disorder.
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