Communication is a vital part of our day-to-day lives. It is how we connect with others, express our thoughts and feelings, and learn more about the world around us. There are many ways we communicate, including facial expressions, body-language, and with our words. For some people, speech does not come easily — and it’s important for those who have difficulty with speech to know they aren’t alone in their struggle.
Dana Stewart, speech-language pathologist and owner of Stuttering and Speech Therapy Services in Indianapolis, understands the power of community. Her organization doesn’t just provide services to help kids gain confidence in their speech, but also gives them the opportunity to connect, and have fun with, other children who stutter. She organizes monthly outings for kids ages 8 to 12 who stutter, and their families, so they can let loose and be around others who stutter in a judgment-free setting.
How did you get started helping people who stutter?
I run a private clinic for all ages of people who stutter and for those with other speech difficulties, such as speech and language delays. My ultimate goal for everyone of all ages who chooses Stuttering and Speech Therapy Services is to help create confident and authentic communicators, and to help provide parents with guidance about how to support their child with a speech difficulty.
A frequently missing piece for many kids (and adults) who stutter in their individual speech therapy is the connection with other people who stutter. Because stuttering is a lower-prevalence speech difference, many people who stutter have never met someone else who stutters. This can be quite isolating and contribute to unnecessary feelings of shame surrounding their speech.
I started the gathering for kids who stutter with a few clients I worked with at the time. I wanted them to meet each other, but in a less formal environment with more active fun involved. Communication should be fun and connect you to your community, right? All of the community spaces we have connected with have been wonderful and the families have been a consistent support helping create this community.
Can you tell us about the events and outings you provide for kids who stutter?
The monthly community gatherings for kids who stutter has run from October through March for the past three years. The group is targeted to kids who stutter ages 8 to 12. Their siblings are welcome, and parents stay to connect with other parents. We meet at a local family-friendly community space, discuss and connect about stuttering for the first portion of our meet-up, and then we participate in the activity the community space has to offer. We’ve gone rock climbing, painted pottery, put-putted. It’s just fun! The participants look forward to meeting up each month.
What are some of the goals you have for those attending the outings?
There is currently no “cure” for stuttering. Because of this, an effective piece of speech therapy is working on acceptance of the stutter — to decrease the internal fight that accompanies stuttering. My hope in creating this group is to develop a community for kids who stutter where they feel safe to speak freely without worrying how others will react to their stutter.
I want these kids to not feel alone, to feel empowered to do the things they want to do without fear of their communication difference, to REALLY know they can be excellent communicators who happen to stutter. A speech therapist and parents/caregivers are important in setting this foundation, but the connection with other kids who stutter and peer acceptance is what I see as one of the most powerful tools in fostering this mindset.
I want them to hear stories from their friends who stutter about how they advocated for themselves by speaking to their teachers and classmates about their speech, or tried out for the school musical, or volunteered to be the school’s daily TV anchor.
What else should we know about stuttering?
Know that when you speak with someone who stutters, all they need is just a little extra time to finish what they are saying. That’s all. The person who stutters is just as capable of a speaker and knows exactly what they want to say. A few extra seconds of time in the conversation goes a long way for a person who stutters to feel accepted and comfortable when speaking.
Join the Fun
For families who have kids ages 8 to 12 who stutter, you can sign up to join the monthly stuttering community outings by visiting the Stuttering and Speech Therapy website at stutteringandspeechtherapyservices.com/events. New participants are always welcome, and you are not required to be a client of the therapy clinic. For more info or to ask questions, call (317) 445-5887 or email [email protected].