Tuesday, March 25, 2014

To a Father From Anna

Happy Spring again.  If I say it enough times I'm certain the snowbanks that persist outside my office window will go away. 
I am a member of the Neurosemantics of Stuttering Yahoo group and am always informed and inspired by these amazing adults.  The following is a lovely piece written by a mother, Anna Margolina, in response to a father’s concerns.  Anna is a native of Russia and is also a person who stutters.  She holds a Ph.D. in Biology and is certified by the American Board of NLP Practitioners.  You can learn more about Anna at www.changinglifenlp.com.  I reprint the following with her permission. 


I have three kids and all of them had some disfluences which were noticeable enough to make my mother alarmed. Two daughters grew up without stuttering. My son is 5 now, but I think he is not in any danger.

I am not qualified to give you a professional advice. But my personal beliefs are

1) Refrain from any comments on a child's language. If a child mispronounces a word, simply start using this word more and speak it slower and more clear but without making it obvious. If a child speeds up and is difficult to understand - first pace the speed (speak in the same speed) then slowly slow your speech down a bit. If a child is disrespectful, says dirty words - don't react emotionally but use different time to have a talk about bad words. etc. The goal is to avoid creating language anxiety and worries about speech.

2) Listen very carefully, pay attention, be genuine. Trying to get an adult attention is very stressful for sensitive children. If they worry you won't listen, they may get nervous and whatever difficulties they have, may get aggravated.

3) Make it okay for you to have a child who stutters. Be certain that with your support and knowledge her experience with stuttering will be very different from yours. 80% of kids recover by the time they start school. Kids are very sensitive to body language and emotional energy. If you get nervous every time she blocks, she will sense it. If your heart breaks every time she blocks, she will sense it.

When my son had disfluences around age 3.5-4 I followed those steps and made it okay for me if he stutters. I knew that stuttering or not we will help him to grow happy and confident. Now his speech is not different from other kids his age. He stumbles when he is excited, but so do other kids as far as I can hear. So it is not an expert advice, but maybe you will find something for you in my experience.




Thursday, March 20, 2014

I Won't Blog Just to Hear Myself Blog

Happy spring to all of you!  If you're still living in the midst of a giant snowbank like the one I'm staring at out my office window, this hardly seems possible.  Hopefully the calendar doesn't lie.

This post has nothing to do with stuttering.  It's about blogging.  I love blogging.  I hate blogging.  Blogging is hard work.  I read that I should blog something everyday, something every week, at least twice a week, at least twice a month, at minimum, once a month, etc...

The pressure is tremendous :-))

So I'm making my own rules.  I will only blog when I have something to say that I feel is important and worthwhile!    I won't blog just to hear myself blog.

I am also working on a new Wordpress blog/website (I use the term "I" loosely:-))  This will include a way to access older posts by topic and date, a list of resources that I find useful (or at least interesting), and a link to Amazon to purchase my book, Voice Unearthed: Hope, Help, and a Wake-Up Call for the Parents of Children Who Stutter, and who knows what else? 

Also, if you are receiving notices of my blog postings and are no longer interested, please don't hesitate to let me know.  (This does not apply to family or friends -- you are stuck with me.)

Thank you all for your interest and support! 

Doreen (Dori) Lenz Holte

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Book Recommendation for Parents and Speech Therapists

Just finished reading, for the second time, Dr. Gunars Neiders' book, From Stuttering to Fluency: Manage Your Emotions and Live More Fully.  Dr. Neiders is a psychologist and a person who stutters.  He enlists Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) to address shame and anxiety so often at the heart of our children’s struggle to talk. 

I’m guessing his intention was to write for an audience of adults as he doesn’t specifically address therapy for children.  That said, I think the insights and recommendations can be very useful in helping parents and speech therapists minimize shame and anxiety in the first place.  While he states “We believe the low success rate is the result of SLP’s focusing exclusively on changing the mechanics of speech,” I also believe that ANY focus on the mechanics of children’s speech comes with tremendous risks of increasing shame and anxiety.  I don’t know that he would agree, I just might have to ask him!

Neiders believes that most speech therapists are “ill-equipped to directly or systematically address the fears and anxieties of their clients” and I would go on to say that most speech therapists are over-equipped to address the speech mechanics.  They see immediate results in their clinics and these results are easy to measure. 

He also emphasizes the whole picture – the goal of overall quality of life versus fewer speech errors.  Neiders states “People who learn to control their anxiety about stuttering often report that they become more fluent.  With or without additional fluency, less anxiety and greater participation in life adds to the overall quality of our existence.” 

If I had read this book when Eli was young, I’m sure I would have done things differently.  Dr. Neiders not only introduces the idea of using REBT-focused therapy with those who stutter, but he also provides a very readable book with simple but potentially life-changing support strategies. 

From Stuttering to Fluency:  Manage Your Emotions and Live More Fully by Dr. Gunars Neiders is available through Amazon. 

Doreen (Dori) Lenz Holte
Author of Voice Unearthed: Hope, Help, and a Wake-Up Call for the Parents of Children Who Stutter

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Keeping My Fingers Crossed

Recently, in an email conversation with a leader in this field, it was suggested that I should be writing more about the positive experiences families are having connected with speech therapy for their children who stutter.  This professional stated that most therapists’ goals include “getting and keeping our kids talking, listening and respecting our clients and families, measuring success by how much talking is happening, decreasing avoidances, becoming desensitized to the stuttering and other's reactions to the stuttering.”  She goes on to say “many of us spend very little time, if any, addressing the stuttering behaviors.”

While I find these statements encouraging I don’t believe this is what a significant number of children who stutter are experiencing in speech therapy.  At least that’s not what I hear from parents, from teens and young adults who stutter, from graduate students in the field of Communication Disorders, and from multitudes of speech therapists who have connected with me over the years.    

Parents continually report that their children are being directed to use speech tools and are not able to use them effectively outside the clinic setting.  They share the heartbreak of seeing their child withdraw and choose silence.  For the record, I realize this behavior is not uncommon with  children who stutter, even if they have not had therapy.  It also happens to children for a multitude of reasons having nothing to do with stuttering.  But the expectation of suggesting a child talk in a prescribed manner runs a tremendous risk of exacerbating this behavior, a behavior that can be more handicapping than the stutter itself.
I hear from speech therapists who are highly uncomfortable with the direction they are given and at a loss for what to do for these kids.  Many complain that the framework imposed upon them by institutions including public schools and insurance companies leaves little room to focus on  anything but overt stuttering behaviors.  Many teens and adults who stutter considered their time in speech therapy, when therapy focused on the use of speech tools, not only a waste of time and resources, but an experience from which they needed to recover.   While I believe there are some children out there who feel that speech tools were helpful, there are just too many who found them to impede their overall progress in life.  I also know that there are children who have benefitted tremendously from their interaction with speech therapists over the years.  But too many have not and until this changes, I will continue to write about the bourgeoning flip side of this scenario.  

The newsletters from support organizations exude hope and reasons to celebrate, sharing stories of families who are satisfied with the therapy they’ve experienced and adults who have led extraordinary lives in spite of their challenges with stuttering.  That perspective is well covered.  But the field can’t keep pretending this picture is reflective of everyone’s experience and inclusive of the current state of affairs.  They cannot be afraid to acknowledge, embrace, and address the shortcomings and uncertainties that permeate treatment options for children who stutter.  I know there are individuals and professionals out there expressing their concerns and ready to roll up their sleeves, but the effort to marginalize these voices is pervasive and ongoing.   

Change is needed.  Real, safe, and fearless conversation is needed.  These kids and their families deserve treatment that is devoid of the risk of exacerbating silence and withdrawal.  Parents and speech therapists deserve to fully understand these risks, and to have options that focus exclusively on keeping kids talking, decreasing avoidances, and building self- esteem and engagement in the world around them.  ASHA and the support organizations have the power and influence to make this happen.    I'm keeping my fingers crossed!
Keep Them Talking and Keep Talking Fun!!


Dori Lenz Holte

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Comments Not Getting Through With Internet Explorer

It has come to my attention that comments sent to my blog using older versions of Internet Explorer had not been showing up.  So if you have commented and did not get a response, I apologize.  We (meaning my husband) have fixed the problem.  Feel free to resend comments that did not appear and I will be happy to respond!  Thank you!

Doreen (Dori) Lenz Holte

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Put a Lid on It

I love analogies.  So here’s one for you… 

Often the first instinct, when there’s a grease fire in your kitchen, is to dump a bucket of water on it.   Of course, most of us know better.  We know a lot about fire and we know that water will only make a grease fire spread.  

We don’t know a lot about why someone starts to stutter.  Our first instinct is to “put out the fire” by suggesting a child talk differently in order to not stutter.  But like water to a grease fire, this will most likely only exacerbate the problem.  Why?  Because the suggestion is apt to create more anxiety around talking.  We may not know much about the cause of stuttering, but we do know that anxiety to stuttering is like water to a grease fire.

So let’s just put a lid on it.
Keep them talking and keep talking fun!
Doreen (Dori) Lenz Holte
Author of Voice Unearthed: Hope, Help, and a Wake-Up Call for the Parents of Children Who Stutter

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Bullying – it doesn’t end with the kids or on the playground!

Several months ago I witnessed a speech therapist I admire make light of the fact that children usually only use their speech tools while with the therapist.  While I firmly believe that there is not one drop of malicious intent behind the casual acceptance of this common observation, we need to understand that the negative impact of setting up unattainable goals for a child can be devastating.    

I’ve often hear parents say “I just don’t know why he doesn’t use his tools at home, he does so well with his therapist.”  Both parents and speech therapists usually decide that the child just needs more practice.  When that doesn’t help, they decide that they’ve done their duty by filling the speech tool box, now the child can use these tools when HE chooses, placing the onus squarely on the child’s shoulders.  ouch.

The confusion and uncertainty inherent in therapy for children who stutter creates an insecure foundation for therapists.  In addition, speech therapists are under undue pressure to report progress (too often defined as fewer speech errors) in a relatively short period in order to justify continued therapy.  Parents are desperate for solutions – the idea of their child having a life-long challenge with this issue is so painful it is almost unthinkable, especially in the early years. 

So we, in turn, impose expectations on these kids that most often set them up for failure -- failure that is relentless and permeates almost every moment of this child’s world   The late Tim Field, expert on the subject of bullying in the workplace, states that a common strategy used to bully an employee is to “put the individual in a situation in which failure is almost certain.”[1]    

Have we caring adults all become unintentional bullies?

Family Lives, a charitable organization in the U.K., reports that when a disabled child is being bullied: 
-          Their condition may be reinforced or worsened.
-          They may become reluctant to mix in social situations. [2]

This was the exact outcome of Eli’s speech therapy.  His stuttering went from mild to moderate to severe (condition reinforced or worsened), and he became silent and withdrawn (reluctant to mix in social situations). 

It may seem harsh to label our actions as bullying, but the similarities around the negative impact are too concerning to ignore.  We must work together to extricate this strategy from speech therapy for kids who stutter.  We must keep them talking and keep it fun! 


Doreen (Dori Lenz Holte)
Author of Voice Unearthed: Hope, Help, and a Wake-Up Call for the Parents of Children Who Stutter

1.  Tim Field, Bully in Sight Success Unlimited (1996) p. 43
2.  http://www.bullying.co.uk/advice-for-parents/how-does-bullying-affect-your-child/