Supporting the mental health of children who stutter - part two

Episode 159 March 18, 2024 00:39:38
Supporting the mental health of children who stutter - part two
Emerging Minds Podcast
Supporting the mental health of children who stutter - part two

Mar 18 2024 | 00:39:38

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Show Notes

This episode is the second in our two-part series on supporting the mental health of children who stutter. We are again joined by Rich Stephens, President of the Stuttering Association for the Young Australia (SAY:Australia), and Mitchell, who has been involved with SAY:Australia for the past four years, first as a participant and now as a mentor to other children and young people who stutter. In this episode, Rich and Mitchell talk about some of the unhelpful things that people can say or do around those with a stutter and how these things can impact their mental health and wellbeing. They discuss what the current therapy options are and their experiences with them, what advice they would give to practitioners, and what support SAY:Australia provides to children, particularly in terms of their mental health and wellbeing.
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Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Speaker A: The main thing is to make sure that it's a safe space where they have as much time as a need to speak. And that sounds really easy to provide a space where they can take as much time as they need to speak. I understand in a clinic, like in a clinic environment with the pressures of time and all these things, but if you just take that time to provide that space, and then anyone who has a stutter, be they adult or can a child, but then especially if they're a child and stuff, they will see that they are seen and they're going to be heard. And I think that is so important. [00:00:47] Speaker B: Welcome to the Emerging Minds podcast. [00:00:53] Speaker C: Hi, you're with Nicole Rollbush. On today's episode, I'm joined again by Rich Stevens, president of the Stuttering association for the Young Australia, or say Australia and Mitchell, who's been involved with, say, Australia for the last four years, first as a participant and now as a mentor to other children and young people. Both Rich and Mitchell have a stutter, and they've joined us again to talk more about what it's like growing up with a stutter, how it can impact children's mental health and what people can do to best support children who have a stutter. Thank you both for joining me again to continue this conversation. Now, rich, you did touch on this a little bit before, but I'm really interested in from both of you about the language and labels that might be around people who have a stutter. And also some of the things that people do that are actually really unhelpful. [00:01:45] Speaker D: Probably trying to have a conversation with new people or close one to trying to get the word out, but you can't. They try to finish your word or sentence. That's a big, but from the way I've always had in school, like, people walk off people not pay attention. So I just don't really care for those people who don't really want to respect him. But a good thing to do is if you haven't ever met a person who stud or anything and they're trying to talk to you, just listen to them. Just let them talk. Be nice, be friendly. [00:03:02] Speaker A: Yeah, I remember as a kid, I'd hear a lot, the description of my daughter was like, bad, worse. I needed to be fixed. So there's lots of negative MCA and connotations with that and stuff. If I'm talking and it's described as bad, and then obviously I'm going to take that and I'm going to think, okay, so if I'm talking now and if I have a stutter and I know it's bad, then I know I need to stop that. I know if I do that, it's not accepted around me and stuff, so I have to stop that or else I'm bad. And it's a weird thing to say, but, like, if you're a child, these things stick. These things really stick. And those are a couple of examples. I think labeling, I think I was always thought of as anxious, like anxieties is not a cause it can exacerbate. I was never shy, though, but that's a false impression and you get. Because I wasn't shy, I wanted to speak, but didn't want to speak as well because I didn't know what the reaction was going to be from other people. You hear a lot. I heard a lot as well as a kid, oh, it's fine, you'll grow out of it. And even if you think of that, and I know I'm being a bit pedantic here, so if I continue with a stutter, does that mean I've not grown up, then? I know it's a pedantic thing, but kind of words and language are just so important at such an early age. So I never use like, and when I talk about mine, I just say strong or not as strong with the reference to my daughter and stuff. I know everybody is kind of different, but I think anything which you can say because as soon as it comes out your mouth, it can never come back. And I think as kids those things stick. So I think anything which I believe which has a negative and connotation, we really need to kind of stop, really, because those things will just be embedded in the child's. [00:05:33] Speaker E: Yeah, definitely. I think that hearing that lived experience is so important for language and attitudes to change and just how powerful those things can be in terms of the meaning that you make from your interactions with people, whether it's outright saying bad or something like that, or the finishing of sentences or words or just walking away and what that sense making is from that, especially, like you say when you're a really young kid and you don't know what to make sense of. So, yeah, really important side of things, language and attitudes. And I wanted to ask you what the current treatment options are around stuttering. [00:06:15] Speaker A: Yeah, sure. So I think from an early age, what SLPs will tend to do is kind of work with the parents in terms of the home environment and stuff and in terms of how they communicate to their child, they will look at just other kind of pressures in the home environment and stuff. Is there protected time where communication can kind of happen? And there's sometimes, as well, where the parents are trained by an SLP to like and to deliver the program at home. And you've got, like, a range of other programs where they tend to try to kind of work on the speech, to modify the speech, to do the rhythmic approach. There's lots of tricks out there which might have been used in the past, which I don't think are used now. So there's lots of fluency inducing techniques. So if you talk to a beat with a word or the syllable times, that can invoke a lot, like a flu. Wouldn't say. So. There's the modification of speech, which at times, it's always a bit of a trade off, especially when you get a bit older as well. There's the cognitive behavioral therapy, which is kind of working on kind of thoughts and feelings around your relationship with Harvard stutter. There's breathing techniques, the coastal breathing, where you talk on your outbreath. So there's lots out there. Yeah. I would always advise anyone who's on a lookout for any therapy or groups or organizations just to research it and to have a look. To have a look at the evidence, how it was done, who did it, and to make the choice that. Yeah, to kind of make the choice that you were comfortable with and happy with. And I also think, as well, I think SLPs have a responsibility now to not just prescribe a single thing to families and to kids who come in and stuff. I think if I was an SLP now, I don't think I'd be spending the first week or two or three weeks prescribing a therapy and stuff. I'd let the family or the child or the adult tell their story, tell their story and provide them with the evidence base, provide them with what is out there and for them to make an informed choice. [00:09:26] Speaker C: And, Mitch, what about for you and your experience of seeing a speech pathologist? Can you tell us a little bit about the types of treatment that you've experienced and what it was like to go through those processes with your speech? [00:09:40] Speaker D: Yes. In primary school gamers, which I don't like, I've got a memory of it. So probably in grade one to grade four, I did speech therapy in primary school. That was just like talking to some speech pathologists that they actually had at the school. And she was awesome from me through those times, like just talking to someone without being walked off on or anything like that. So what I did was just play games that's the memory I've got, just playing games and just sitting down and having a chat with her. Then my mum was truer, like, finding it really hard to find a speech pathologist because something along the lines of, like, I'm pretty sure past the age of 13 or 14, it's hard. Or, like, speech pathologists don't do kids over a certain age, so I'm pretty sure it's either 13 or 14 maybe, if I'm right. So, yeah, mum was always on the phone with. Always on the phone, emailing speech pathologist clinics, trying to call, because at this time in high school, I want to. Must have started to be fixed because I was just at that low point. So just trying to get it fixed, trying to get it away, pretty much. So we ended up finding one in Box Hill when I was 14 or 15. And I did that for two years of just constant smooth speech, just like, trying to talk smoothly and without stuttering at all. So I did that for about two years. And then also he wanted me to do take the smooth speech to the real world, like, to footy to school, talking to my parents and extended family members. And then, yeah, I do just found that really exhausting and overwhelming. I would always come home completely from school and just talking mates, just trying to talk smoothly. And then even after there's, like, school hours, as soon as I go home, I would just go in my room and constantly read books, articles, just like, trying to be as smooth as I could be. But, yeah, that was just two weeks. I would always go to the grid at like 06:00 p.m. Wake up for school and be completely tired. And that was a really juror. So when I was 16, I was like, I told my parents, I'm like, no, I can't keep doing this because it's too much. [00:13:50] Speaker E: Yeah, I think that's something that a lot of people wouldn't think about is just how tiring it can be to have to think about speaking. Yeah. [00:14:06] Speaker D: Because it's not really something people think about how exhausting it is. And I just remember my guru, our parents, always trying to tell me and find all these articles of smooth speech. They are mean. I was always, oh, I can't keep finding new ways to talk in that because it's just too. [00:14:39] Speaker E: Yeah, yeah, you've touched on a couple of things already, Mitch, but what are some of the helpful things that people around you have been able to do? For. [00:14:51] Speaker D: My guru parents that they're trying to find articles and all that, that was a sign of, like, they're really kind and loving and supportive. And then my parents and my sister have been awesome and amazing. And I can't thank them for how helpful they've been because meeting new people in social situations can't get one name out. So we have, like this, for example, we have had them met before. And then you introduce yourself. Then I tried to introduce myself. I would like a look to them and then they would tell me their name for me. So, yeah, that's really good. And then I can't think on the top of my head how much other things they've done to help me because it's been a lot. And at school as well, like in my mates, Evu, then at school with roll calls trying to say, I'm here. I would always get blocks or I couldn't even say, I'm here to mark me present. So I would ask them to say, you please just say I'm here. And then they'll be like, yeah, sure. So that was really awesome for me, Evu and teachers as well, like my english teachers, because we always had to do like, presentations in high school and whatnot. Because that's a crew that you have to pass being able to presentate and talk. So all of my english teachers were awesome in the space where I don't have to talk in for one of the kids, I could do it at lunchtime. So that was awesome. And if I wanted to, because I'm pretty sure in year nine or year, and I had to have at least four or five kids in my class be there. So I had a few my fur and just sit in. I could tick me off. Thank good God I didn't have to talk as much in front of the classroom, but yeah, that's what I had to go past. Yeah. [00:18:12] Speaker C: And rich, I think you mentioned a bit of this in your introduction, but I'm really interested in hearing a bit more about what, say, Australia brings to children and young people who stutter, particularly about the impact that your program can have on their well being. [00:18:28] Speaker A: Yeah. So we provide an adjunct. It's a pure adjunct. It's not a replacement for any therapy that is currently ongoing. For any young people who comes into our world, the essence of what we provide is a safe space where the kids and teens who stutter can just come exactly how they are. The only ask is that we ask them to bring them. And that is the only ask. We provide a space which is a lot of love, a lot of empathy, a lot of understanding, acceptance, lots of listening, which I think is key. And we do so in an environment which is fun. And they can show their uniqueness in this space where they won't be bullied, they won't be told to speak a certain way, they won't be told that they have to accept their daughter as well. But what they will see is that they are seen and heard and loved for exactly how they are, and they are allowed to be kids. And I think that is the beauty of what we try and do and stuff. We just want to provide a space where they can be kids. So over the course of ten, nine weeks or ten weeks, they get to work in small groups and they create a unique piece. And if that's a song or a spoken word or a play, and then at the end, if they want to share what they have created, and they are totally in charge of what they create, and then at the end of the program, they get a chance, if they want to share their piece in front of an audience filled with family and friends in an auditorium or a theater space, or, like, if we do it online as well, because we do this interstate in the zoom asphere, as I like to call it, we will do a show in the zoom asphere as well. But kind of when they share, they have as much time as they want, and everyone is just there, not concerned about how they speak, but just really interested in what they have to say. So we do that all year round, and we do the social hangs every month. So all of those things are free. Our programming is free, the social hangs are free. The only thing that we do charge for, but we try and help families as much as possible, obviously, is we do a summer camp here in Victoria, up in Creswick. Not a fluency camp, not an acceptance camp, just a camp. It's really kind of special. There's a know essence, a magical time that we have when we are with our community for, like, four or five days. And we get to know each other a lot in the camp environment. We do all these arms, and it's great, but the essence and the core of it is just providing that safe space for kids and teens who stutter, to just come to be themselves, to meet other kids and teens who stutter. So for a lot of the kids, it's the first time when they come into our space that they've met anyone else who has a stutter and hopefully kind of building on their kind of confidence and their self esteem. And for them to see that, yes, as a person who has a stutter, you can do all these things in life and you can be an effective communicator as a person who stutters. So, yeah, as I said, as I said, we're not a replacement for any therapy. We are purely an adjunct to coexist. [00:22:16] Speaker E: Yeah. And I love the simplicity of that message of just be yourself in this. Mitch, I wanted to ask you about your experience of, say, Australia. Tell us a bit about that and maybe what's been the best part of it. [00:22:37] Speaker D: Every single time when I think of. I always think of my very first day, being anxious, being scared, being too far gardened as seeing my first game. Me and my family arrived and I was sitting on the seat, and then as soon as I heard the door open, I absolutely bolted to the toilet. So I was like, no, I'm not this at all. My youngest sister, she walked over to where I was and then she helped me calm down a bit. As soon as I walked in, I saw all of the lovely golden tears. They're also going some miles, their energy. And then ever since then, I've not looked back. It's just a pool place where you could be yourself without being judged by anyone, not being interrupted. It's just always a friendly environment. There's never been any issues at all. It's just always just amazing. Sir, that's also part of. [00:24:21] Speaker F: I remember that day well, I remember that day and it was the first ever program that we did. I remember when you were nervous and when you went to the toilet for a bit and then you come in and I didn't know if you were going to stay. And then we played a game and you did this great share with your dad and stuff and had a big embrace and then we took a break because it was a very emotive. It was not that kind of game. You just shared this beautiful share with your dad, and then we took a break and I didn't know if you were going to come back. And you stayed for that day. And it's just been beautiful ever since. And it's like I say, in terms of Mitchell, he's a person who's been through the programs. He's been through the programs. He came to our first one. He graduated as an alumni, and he's come back as a mentor. He was a bunk counselor to the youngest boys, which is always a hard age group and especially at your age and stuff. And there's a maturity in that and just a grace and just a care. And you've shown, and I think, what kind of better story for someone who's been through it for someone who's been through our programs. Yeah, because I lead the organization or the staff have been involved, but there's no one who's been through it. So your story, your insight is so unique and as well, we ask a lot of our kids in terms of, we ask them to take a risk, as in to get on stage as well. I also ask that of the staff as well, because we never ask the kids to do anything that we don't want to involve them for as well. So a couple of days ago, and you were on the stage in a pat auditorium with a tambourine and stuff as a backup singer, and you volunteered to do that and just a number of things as well on camp. And I think that is, again, it's the beauty of what our space is. It's a healing thing for the both of us, as well as people who stutter to be around those kids, but to be around the staff as well. Our team, and we have, like a number of our team who do have a stutter who are adults, and we have a number of people who don't, who are allies, who give us as much time as we need as well. And that's important for the kids to see, because if the kids only came to a space where it was led by adults who stutter, it's great still. But I'd say in our space, you'd expect to have as much time because that's a tagline and stuff like that. But when there's people in there who don't have a stutter as well, who maybe they have never experienced in life, in the sense of, oh, for people who are fluent, don't give me time. That's very important. And it's powerful to see as well. So, yeah, we ask the kids to take a risk and the staff as well. And as I said, it's a healing thing, a rejuvenation for all of us, and it's a special place. [00:27:29] Speaker E: Yeah, sounds like it. And for you, Mitchell, what's been one of the favorite things that you've done? So rich mentioned you've been a backup singer with a tambourine. What's been your most favorite thing? [00:27:45] Speaker D: Well, there's too many to choose, but, well, a little bit, a while ago, probably two or three years ago, Rich was telling me about this idea of camp and all that, and I was, like, really excited by it because we saw, well, in one of the presentation nights, we saw this movie called might be beautiful Gutter, and it was about this camp in America with these kids who stutter and all the volunteers over there and just made them movie about their journeys, their experience, and then the camp as well, as soon as Rich gave me, said to me that idea about the possibility of camp and then that six months ago come to reality, it was just amazing feeling. It will be in all of our hearts and in our memories for many years to come. That's probably my favorite thing. [00:29:20] Speaker E: Yeah, I love. Yeah. So I wanted to ask you, Rich, about the advice that you might give to a practitioner who isn't a speech pathologist, who may have a child who stutters come to them for whatever reason, not specifically around the stuttering. What advice would you give them if a child with a stutter came to their service? [00:29:46] Speaker A: I think the main thing is to make sure that it's a safe space where they have as much time as a need to speak. And that sounds really easy to provide a space where they can take as much time as they need to speak. I understand in a clinic, like in a clinic environment with the pressures of time and all these things, but if you just take that time to provide that space, and then anyone who has a stutter, be they adult or can a child, but then, especially if they're a child and stuff, they will see that they are seen and they're going to be heard. And I think that is so important. It's very easy to interject and to interrupt and to finish off a sentence, because you might see your child, who is really finding it hard to say what they want to say. And inside us, all we want to do is help that moment, and we want to interject, and we want to try and end a sentence if a child is finding it hard. But I always give an example of this. So a child might be asking for a pen, okay? And you're convinced it's a blue pen, and you see them, and they're getting stuck on pen, and afterwards, it's a color, but they can't get that far at the moment. So you see it and you hear it, and you just want to help. So you complete the sentence, and you give them the blue pen, but they might want the red pen. So I think it's a simple thing that to say, but that child might accept the blue pen because it's easier. Because it's easier. And they're like, whoa, I was interrupted then, and I was interjected. And even if they were going to say the blue pen, even in that moment, you might think that you were helping. There's more power there's. More of a beneficial act. There's more of a kindful act is if you just take that inside, the yearning to interject and just hold it and just hold it and just keep it. Because 99% of the time, I'm not going to say every single time, because every person is kind of different, but 99% of the time, if you do that, if you just provide that space where you listen and you listen and you listen, and there might be a bit of silence and for a bit, but I'm telling you right now, if you do that, you will make that person's day, and you will make them feel safe, and you will hear more, and you will hear more from that person. They will share more. And I think the alternative is that they won't like. And for anyone who's engaging with anyone who stutters aboard, especially anyone in health, we want the people who walk through that door, who give us a lot of faith and a lot of trust and stuff, that we are going to care for them. We just really need to do everything that we can for them to share their voice and their story and their thoughts and their. [00:33:31] Speaker E: Yeah, yeah. So important. And what about for you, Mitch? What would you tell people who work with kids about things they can do that are. [00:33:44] Speaker D: Just what they have to say? That's the most important thing. That's what I think. And if you just keep listening, paying attention, keep asking questions about what they're trying to say, that just opens the doors for them. Gray, more calm, more not anxious about talking to the person who they're trying to have a conversation with. Because by myself, speaking, like here right now, I was anxious, like, so much talking about this. But now going through all the questions and that, you guys have been really good in just listening to what we have to say. And now I'm just calm. I can just talk without being judged or anything. So, yeah, just what they have to really. [00:35:19] Speaker E: Yeah. I'm glad you felt comfortable sharing your experience because it's been a pleasure listening to it. And I wonder what you would say to other kids who are growing up with a stutter. What advice would you give them? [00:35:33] Speaker D: Just be authentic, self. That's all what I had to say. Just be who you are. If people don't have the time to talk to you, what you have to say, just don't associate with those people who don't care for what you have to say or anything. Just find people who are really nice and actually want to get to know who you are and then just work through there. [00:36:30] Speaker E: Yeah. It's good advice. [00:36:33] Speaker C: So we've come to the end of. [00:36:35] Speaker E: Our time together, but is there anything either of you would like to add before we go? [00:36:41] Speaker A: I always like to end on just an easy thing, really, and stuff. Look, I think if there's a take home after this and stuff, I think the easiest sound bite to take away is the only difference between people who stutter and people who don't. Is that for people who stutter when they speak, it just takes them a bit alert or bit longer to say the words that they want to say. And that's it. And that is it. And it's just about time. It's just about space and it's about and kind of patience and that is the only kind of difference in communication and stuff. If it's today or tomorrow or like in a week's time or a month's time, if anybody comes into your world who has a stutter, if you remember it, and all you need to know is that I just need to give time and space. And for this person, you'll really make their day. Because I know when I didn't get that and then when I did get that, that was the difference between having a terrible day and thinking about it for days and days on end against the opposite of just walking away and just thinking. That was a cool engagement stuff and just walking on and going on with life and with a smile on my face. [00:38:19] Speaker E: Well, Rich and Mitchell, it's been a real pleasure to have you here today. I've learned a lot. So thank you for sharing your experiences with me. [00:38:29] Speaker C: I really appreciate it. [00:38:31] Speaker F: It's been a. I mean, we felt heard. Thank you. It's been awesome. [00:38:39] Speaker D: Yes, thank you very much for sharing what rich and myself have got to say to thank you for letting us be heard. [00:39:02] Speaker E: My pleasure. Thank you. [00:39:06] Speaker B: Visit our website at www. Dot emergingminds to access a range of resources to assist your practice brought to you by the National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health led by emerging minds. The National Workforce Centre for Child mental health is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health under the national support for Child or Youth mental Health program.

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