Meet Rochelle, the newest member of the Box Hill Speech Pathology team. Rochelle joined our clinic in February and has a special interest in helping people who stutter.
Why are you interested in stuttering?
I’ve always wanted to help people who stutter because of its link to mental health. Regardless of how noticeable a stutter is, it affects people’s confidence. Stuttering can cause social anxiety disorders and often contributes to avoidance behaviours, where the person avoids seeing friends, they stop talking at school or refuse to do an oral presentation. Yet we have the ability to help eliminate or reduce stuttering at all stages of a person’s life! Helping someone to improve their life through speech is very fulfilling.
You recently attended a training programme. Can you tell us about that?
I attended training for the Lidcombe Program, run by Dr Simone Arnott. The program is an evidence-based stuttering program for children age two to six years, and is widely used in Australia and across the world.
How is the Lidcombe Program different from other stuttering treatments?
It’s a two-stage behavioural program based on measuring a child’s stutter and administering different verbal contingencies including praise, whereby children are praised for talking smoothly. We don’t change their speech patterns or their speech and language; instead, we make them feel amazing for using smooth words and sentences in conversations.
Why does it have two phases?
Stage one is all about minimising or eliminating the stuttering, and educating parents to independently manage their child’s stuttering. This is the active stage and is then followed by stage 2, which is important for transfer and maintenance.
What role do parents have in this method of stuttering treatment?
The Lidcombe program is essentially a parent-training program. We train, guide and supervise parents to administer this program at home. As Speech Pathologists, we only see a child for 45 minutes a week, so it’s our job to empower parents to carry out this program confidently at home and provide support when it isn’t working correctly.
Is the Lidcombe Program the only stuttering treatment you provide clients?
Definitely not. Each client is assessed individually, and various factors are considered including age, previous treatment, parents preference and the impact that stuttering is having on their daily lives, as well as other factors unique to each client. Then, a Speech Pathologist works out a plan of action together with the family. It could be the Lidcombe Program, or something else. If that plan isn’t yielding the results we want, we adapt the strategy.
Why is it important children are treated at such a young age?
Stuttering becomes more difficult to treat as a child ages, and early action can prevent or lessen the associated effects that stuttering may have on a child’s life.
If treated early, we can improve a child’s ability to form friendships when they start school, give them a better chance at thriving academically and decrease social anxiety issues.
While some stuttering can be naturally eliminated, we can’t predict who those lucky people will be. We also know if a family member stutters, or stuttered in the past, it will be more likely for a child to stutter. And because stuttering can reoccur years later, it’s vital not to wait too long to seek professional support.
It’s also worth noting that young children often don’t remember doing therapy for stuttering, yet they benefit from reduced or eliminated stuttering. That kind of result is highly desirable.