Encouraging Parents to Seek Help For Stuttering – Going With Your Gut
By Voon Pang
The Stuttering Foundation
We all live in a world where lives have become busier, social media is part of the norm and we get to access new information quicker than ever before. I believe that this has made us more prone to skipping over important details and not trusting our instincts with what we feel is right for us or for our patients.
Let me share with you a quick personal story about trusting your instincts and asking for help. About two years ago, I noticed that a mole on my shoulder had changed colour and I started frantically panicking and thinking about skin cancer and my future. I didn’t help the cause by "Googling" as much information as I could. I confused myself with different images of what was a melanoma or what was an ordinary mole. Eventually, I sought help and got a mole scan, which put my mind at ease. It turned out that I had two moles, each having the potential to be cancerous. Thankfully, both were not.
The process of seeking help for stuttering can be quite similar. It is pretty darn scary and the unknown can be overwhelming. When parents feel supported, anxiety levels drop and confidence increases in helping their children. It is up to each of us to be proactive in seeking help.
A wonderful place to start stuttering research is the Stuttering Foundation. They have excellent information for parents, children, teens, teachers and doctors on the subject of stuttering. They are recognised the world over for their materials about stuttering. The Stuttering Foundation and most other organizations and experts in the speech-language pathology community preach the idea of early intervention.
In terms of being a savvy consumer, look up qualified specialists in the field of stuttering and make contact. Email, ring or chat to a person who knows what they are talking about. Make sure you feel listened to and that you have options to consider before you decide to commit to or delay treatment for your child. Have an evaluation if need be, at least it will put your mind at ease. A great starting point is the referral list on the Stuttering Foundation’s website - or the Board Recognised Fluency Specialists list.
I never tell parents of children who stutter to wait and see or say, “They’ll grow out of it.” The clinic I work in has seen two cases where a 7 year old and an 8 year old both missed out on getting early help because their parents were told to wait. To the parents of both these children and the children themselves, stuttering has become a ‘big deal’ and therapy is that much more difficult than if they were seen during their preschool years.
Research can help us make informed decisions, but go with your gut, trust your instincts and be an advocate for your child or patient. It’s not that scary and you’re not wasting anybody’s time. Whenever I get off the phone with a family, I always commend them on taking that first step in exploring what they can do to help their child or loved one, and I make sure that they feel supported.
Voon Pang is a speech-language pathologist at the Stuttering & Treatment Research Trust in Auckland, New Zealand. He blogs for the Stuttering Foundation.