A Message for Parents of Teenagers Who Stutter
The families of teens who stutter face a number of unique challenges. The older a child gets, the more important it is for him to take primary responsibility for making changes in his speech. Sometimes, it can be hard for parents to “let go” and allow their children assume this primary responsibility. Other times, it may be the child himself who is reluctant to take on the task of facing his stuttering. The NSA can help you through this difficult time by providing support for you and your teen through this often challenging transition.
Fortunately, teens who stutter also have a number of factors in their favor. First, because they are older, it is often easier for them to make the commitment that is necessary to change their speech through therapy. Changing speech requires a lot of practice, and while some teens may be hesitant to put in this type of effort, others will find the motivation they need to work at improving their speech. Second, by this age, many teens who stutter have found other areas of strength within themselves. Perhaps they have found that they are good at sports, or art, or mathematics – or communicating – in spite of the fact that they stutter. It is important for parents and others to nurture these areas of strength so the teens can see that they have value regardless of how fluent they are. Finally, teens who stutter can find support and hope among the community of other teens and adults who stutter. By connecting with others through local NSA support group chapters, NSA youth days, or the annual NSA conference, teens can see that they are not alone in dealing with their stuttering. In this way, teens who stutter can see many examples of people who have dealt successfully with their stuttering and who are showing, by their example and their lives, that stuttering does not have to hold people back from accomplishing any goal they want.
Sometimes, teens who stutter feel isolated because of their speech difficulties. They may feel embarrassed about the fact that they are different from other children, and they may be hesitant to try new things for fear of standing out among the crowd. It is important for parents to recognize that many teens actually feel this way, not just teens who stutter. To be sure, there are some teens, including some who stutter, who are not fazed by the differences between themselves and others. These are the teens who are not embarrassed to try new things, to join the debate or speech club, to be in a class play or talent show, to run for class president, etc. These individuals are distinguished by their self-confidence, not their fluency. Thus, if we wish to help teens who stutter participate more fully in their lives, we should focus on helping them develop their self-confidence. In the long run, as well as in the short run, this is what will help them achieve their goals in life.
Because most teens, not just those who stutter, experience awkwardness, fear about being different, embarrassment, and anxiety about trying new things, it is important not to attribute every “bump” in the child’s development to the fact that he or she stutters. Teens are teens, plain and simple, and adolescence is a difficult stage of life. Becoming a successful and effective adult involves more than just learning to manage stuttering; it also involves learning to minimize the effects of stuttering on all aspects of one’s life, learning to communicate with confidence, and learning to accept oneself. Parents can help teens work through this period and achieve these goals by providing steadfast support for the teen’s attempts to develop self-confidence and willingness to take risks and try new things, not just his ability to achieve fluent speech.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Stuttering Association. © 2008 National Stuttering Association.
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