Family Dynamic

Stuttering is a difficult speech problem. It is hard for the child, for the parents, siblings , extended family, relatives and friends. Everyone has advice and opinions and wants to help.

A few years ago I was asked to work with a three- year old female stutterer. She had been stuttering since she had begun to speak. There was not one speaking situation in which she was stutter-free.

I asked the parents to let me observe her interactions with them, and her brother, who was two years older, than his sister. This observation was for 45 minutes.

The parents sat on the floor with their children. There were age- appropriate toys on the floor, and it looked like a fun place to play.

The older brother was quite the talker, he had much to say about ever item he picked up, and spoke and asked questions with his parents. The parents responded to him. His sister tried to speak a few times, and otherwise was silent.

After this observation I had a meeting with just the parents. I learned that the brother was the dominant speaker of the two children, and basically "took over", conversations when they were both together, and the parents, really did not know what to do about it.

I suggested they give equal time to both children. To make time to be with each child separetely, and when they were together, that the older brother, had "to take turns" with his sister, no matter how much she wanted to say. At the time, she was not speaking much, and shen she did, she stuttered.

When the parents were with their daughter, they should ask questions that required short answers, give her choices, when she had to respond ( eg.- "do you want the paper or the doll?"). Whenever she spoke "fluently" they were to say " nice talking", so as to reward the positive, and ignore the negative.

There were only a few sessions after this. I played with the two siblings together, and it was remarkable how much the younger sister spoke, when she had " the floor". The parents were doing their best with the format I had suggested, and noticed, that while the older brother was annoyed at sharing parent time with his sister, he managed to do it, Remember that he also got private parent time as well.

The parents had to do some rethinking and re-arranging , and there were many questions. However within two months the stutter was gone. Today there are two more siblings in the family. This former client of mine has had a stuttering set back once and awhile, however the parents remembered the format, and it is still working.

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