Tommy is aged 7 and struggles a bit with his speech and language but had also developed a stutter (disfluency). Mum had been told it was stress related because he doesn’t like being in class or in public and feels uncomfortable when people look at him when he’s talking.
Tommy had received therapy from a speech and language therapist but is now discharged from the service as they have completed their assessments and intervention programme. He has no specific diagnosis of a disorder but does struggle with his communication skills.
Tommy’s schoolwork has been affected as he feels singled out in class. He even thinks the teacher makes things worse as he focuses on Tommy when he struggles with his words. When everyone in class then turns their attention to him, it’s easy to imagine how he would feel.
Mum contacted us with a view to getting some extra support for Tommy.
Our support team worked closely with him and his mum to understand what they needed help with. On a 1:1 basis, the therapist started working with Tommy on implementing some specific language building strategies and understanding thoughts and feelings.
For kids who experience stress and anxiety, whether as a result of their communication difficulties or in general doesn’t matter, helping them to practise breathing will make a huge difference. The amazing results of breathing exercises to inhale and expel air properly and mindfully are often forgotten.
With a focus on restructuring the way he thinks he became more aware of his talking, and his stutter, and understood how blips can happen.
Speaking with mum on a 1:1 basis helped her understand too. Offering mum practical strategies to introduce and follow at home provided a wider support system, embedding learning and structure into the home environment.
There is little point in direct work with a child unless the main people in a child’s life are also aware, involved and participating as much as they can.
Parents are generally the experts in their children’s lives, therefore providing them with the tools, skills and understanding in order to take ownership and be the provider of the support that their children needs is key to a successful outcome.
Children are more likely to flourish and positive outcomes more likely to be realised when the child and their family own and direct their problems and solutions.
Tommy really wanted to work on his stutter as he felt this was the main thing he worried about. So that’s what we did.
The type of things we might do to understand how stuttering can be improved is use exercises to identify triggers e.g. anticipation of stress. When someone experiences stress, this is the time when words are likely not to come out correctly.
Breathing properly and being aware of how it can interrupt the flow of speech is a key element of helping to improve a stutter and it also really helps to reduce stress and make us more aware of how and when we feel stress in the body.
We would introduce speaking positive thoughts out loud to help build confidence and focus on any specific problems.
Creating a trusting relationship and a safe space to help children become more aware and comfortable with their issues is key. Investing in a relationship helps us understand the emotional impact on the child and most importantly, what it is about the issue that troubles them most.
The dialogue is likely rich with information which allows us to co-design personalised practice techniques that will help the child in a more effective way.
The time it takes will depend on the individual, we’ll support them for as long as is needed. Ongoing support is provided once the more intensive support reduces. Adopting a relationship-based family support model and investing in creating a more effective home-based support framework for families is beneficial on a number of levels. It assists with managing the fluctuating emotional needs of the child and their parent/caregivers and also introduces practical skills building to help sustain and develop the gains the child has made during the more intensive intervention phase.
Operating an open access service means that families know that they can come back for help at any time they need it, just by a phone call or a Facebook message. This is what few know families need. They tell us! No repeat referrals, no repeating their stories time and again, they want to come back to people who know them and with whom they can hold often very personal conversations with. An organisation they trust, support from a team that knows their child and a service that offer a range of activity and evidence based interventions where the child’s needs and that of their family is firmly positioned at its heart.
After working with Tommy and his mum for about 6 weeks, his mum told us he’d improved so much that he was able to tell his class that “..sometimes I have a speech blip” (we try to encourage kids to name their ‘differences’ in a positive manner rather than labelling from a deficit perspective) ..and came home saying he was able to speak to the class without one single blip. “He was jumping up and down, smiles all over his face”, his mum said “it was such a lovely magic moment! He said that afterwards other kids in the class seemed to notice him more and that his tummy butterflies had gone away. We are all so pleased. Seeing him come home smiling is the best feeling in the world.”
Our family support team will continue to support Tommy and his mum. Specific attention will focus on boosting speech and language skills and social communication. As Tommy gets a bit older we will likely introduce him to our Brick (Lego-based Therapy) and Robotics clubs, where kids ( we run clubs for different ages and capabilities) can meet together and get involved with funky creative stuff, creating Lego models, or learning to programme and control robots. These clubs are designed to offer friendship and boost social communication skills, all the things that don’t come easy for kids who experience problems across the spectrum of speech and language. Socialisation is key to maintaining mental and physical health, our programmes are evidence-based and designed with education, literacy, communication and friendship in mind.