Thursday, July 24, 2014

Summer Update From The Holtes

It’s been a whirlwind summer for the Holte family – started off with Eli’s 18th birthday followed two days later by his grad party (120+ friends and family – good times!!).  See below – note the gecko coming out of the eyeball…

These events were followed up by our son, Abe’s wedding.  I now have a beautiful daughter, Esther, and I’m thrilled!  This is my favorite picture from the wedding – yes, it was a really really fun event!  Eli is lurking in the back – a little creepy…J

And now we prepared to see our last child leave the nest.  Eli heads off to Moorhead State mid-August.  Man, I’m going to miss him.  I’ll miss his big brother, Adam, too – heading back to St. Cloud State. The newlywed, Abe, just got his first professional (i.e. paid) commercial photography gig this week.  And I get to focus on buying quality, not quantity at the grocery store.  Organic section – here I come!  I’ll probably be sobbing in the aisles.  Exciting times for everyone! 

So that’s an update from the Holte family – hope you and yours are all having a wonderful summer!  Thank you again for your interest in Voice Unearthed – and keep them talking!!

Doreen (Dori) Lenz Holte




Thursday, May 8, 2014

Befuddled and Grateful!

This past Monday I had the honor of doing a Skype session with Communication Disorders graduate students from City University New York (CUNY).  They were truly inspiring and I thank them and their professor, Peggy Connor, for inviting me.  They had all read my book and had great questions and insights. 

You know how this goes.  The minute you hang up you think of all the things you wished you had said.  Oh, but I do have a blog site - yippee for me! 

I keep thinking about their question around the parent who desperately wants their child to get beyond this.  We were (still are to be honest!) those parents.   No one ever explained to us the risk of increased silence and disengagement -- especially when the speech tools are meant to do just the opposite and appear to do that successfully within the clinic setting.   It took way too long for us to get to the point of realizing that his progression in the wrong direction might be connected to the focus of therapy – i.e. making fewer speech errors.  I believe most parents will fully understand this if it is explained to them in a respectful and thoughtful way.  They may still insist on an approach that lends itself to making the behavior stop, but at least their flags will raise a lot sooner in the journey and less damage will be done. 

I don't blame his speech therapy for the fact that he stutters, but I do believe that therapy focused on making fewer speech errors played a huge role in the intensity of his struggle today.  I don't blame speech therapists either -- they were doing what they had been taught to do, what is considered "evidence-based", and what appears to work when the child is with them. 

And yet I didn’t have to dig too deep to find professionals and people who stutter express serious concern over this type of therapy.  I am completely befuddled as to why ASHA isn’t doing more to develop options that do not carry the inherent risk of increased anxiety, withdrawal, and silence for children.  Completely befuddled…

Okay, I feel much better now.  I was so honored to be able to connect with the graduate students at CUNY on this topic.   Great group of future speech therapists – not because they agreed with my opinions (they may or may not have), but because they listened.  They valued a parent’s perspective and they will consider this perspective as they proceed in their chosen field. 

Happy Mother’s Day to me because that was the best gift I could have ever received!  Now if I can just get that kid to clean his room, my Mother’s Day weekend (yes, I make it the entire weekend) will be complete.    And it’s never my birthday – it’s my birthweek.  Happy Mother’s Day to all of you moms too! 


Doreen (Dori) Lenz Holte

Author of Voice Unearthed: Hope, Help, and a Wake-Up Call for the Parents of Children Who Stutter.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Visit the British Stammering Association Group Facebook Page

Hello all -- been awhile!  I have Eli's graduation party coming up -- and then my other son's wedding.  This means I have to do some serious cleaning :0!

We are also still working on getting a new website up and running -- soon I hope.

But the real reason I wanted to post today is to give a shout-out to the British Stammering Association Group.  This is a closed group on Facebook and full of lovely people, Brits and Ams alike.  It is the first group I've found that includes lots of parents -- in addition to adults who stutter.  Hope you take time to check them out and even join in the conversation!

Spring still isn't here...tomorrow?

Keep them talking!!

Doreen (Dori) Lenz Holte

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  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