School-Age Stuttering Therapy: Why don't we write goals for fluency?

Nina Reeves is a licensed, certified Speech-Language Pathologist as well as a board-certified specialist in fluency disorders. Currently, she is employed as staff Fluency Specialist for Frisco Independent School District in the Dallas area, and Fluency Specialist Consultant for San Diego Unified School District in California. Nina is a nationally recognized workshop presenter in the area of fluency disorders, she has authored numerous articles on stuttering, and is the co-author of the acclaimed book Early Childhood Stuttering Therapy: A Practical Guide, published by Stuttering Therapy Resources, Inc.... Without further ado, here is today's post from Nina!

Recently, I presented a podcourse for SpeechTherapyPD.com where I boldly stated that:

 

"SLPs need to be moving away from writing goals for percentages of fluent speech."*

 

*The Speech Link: A Speech Language Pathology PodcastEp. 12: Nina Reeves, CCC-SLP, BRC-FD "School-Age Stuttering Therapy: Essentials for Speech-Language Pathologists" (.1 ASHA CEU)

 

This is not a new concept, nor am I the only professional saying this out loud! Following this comment, one SLP Facebook group had a lively discussion about my quote!

 

STR's Scott Yaruss has already posted a blog on this subject: Why don't we write goals about fluency? (Make certain to read his thoughts on this, too - click here!)

 

Truly, the idea of therapy planning for students who stutter brings up strong opinions. These opinions are based upon our philosophies of therapy, how we were trained, and how we view the disorder and its impact on the communication of our students who stutter. 

 

Since the Facebook interactions, I have presented a one-hour professional development for SLP Summit. During that presentation and in the questions that followed, I realized that I wanted to provide my own thoughts here in blog form! 

 

I have received some follow-up questions from colleagues who wondered specifically about my thoughts that when goals are written for % of fluency, they could be challenged by a savvy parent.  My comment was to stir all of us to broaden our view of what we are trying to measure in stuttering therapy. Why can a parent challenge this goal? Well, stuttering is-by its nature-variable.

Here is one example: 

If we take data on Tuesday AM and the child doesn't stutter much...we are fabulous, right? Therapy is working, right? He is meeting his goals, right? Then on Thursday, we take data and the student stutters up a storm. Well, we have failed, right? The student isn't working hard enough, right? 

 

To be certain, because of the variable nature of stuttering, any parent (or professional) who understand the true nature of the disorder of stuttering would be able to challenge a goal written to demonstrate progress in terms of consistent percentages of fluent speech. 

 

OR...here is a scenario that is even more problematic:

What if on Tuesday our measures of 90% fluency (arbitrary) were met because the student was hiding his stuttering (changing words, using "um/uh" as starters, not saying all that he wanted to say). Then on Thursday, he was "stuttering well" because he was desensitized to showing stuttering and allowed himself to communicate freely; irrespective of stuttering. Now, which one of these scenarios demonstrates the outcome of effective communication? Of course, it is the child who stutters freely and doesn't avoid. However, this student would "never master" the arbitrary fluency goals! Need we say more? 

Suffice it to say, I am not "anti-fluency." I am "anti-expectation of fluency!" I would be remiss if I didn't mention that I believe enhanced fluency can be a goal of stuttering therapy. A child's ability to utilize strategies that enhance the ease and flow of speech can be measured in stuttering therapy. However, neither of these concepts are the full measure of effective intervention! In fact, most students can't use techniques nor enhance their fluency with any consistency or for any length of time unless they are also working on the cognitive/affective aspects of the disorder, helping the environment understand and support them in their communication, and decreasing the potential negative impact of stuttering on their quality of life. 

 

To summarize, broad-based assessment leads to broad-based goals and broad-based treatment. HOW we write goals (and collect data) is important, but what is more important is WHY we are writing the goals! Effective communication for those who stutter comes from feeling that what they have to say is more important than how they are saying it. Students who stutter need us to understand that learning how to handle the disorder if stuttering is much more complex than learning how to handle a moment of stuttering.

 

Check out STR’s Practical Tip on writing treatment goals for stuttering therapy. 

 

For a comprehensive look at stuttering therapy for early childhood and school-age students who stutter, go to:

School Age Stuttering Therapy: A Practical Guide

Early Childhood Stuttering Therapy: A Practical Guide

Courses From SpeechTherapyPD.com About Stuttering

 

 

The Speech Link 

with Char Boshart, MA, CCC-SLP

 

 

Nina Reeves, CCC-SLP, BRC-FD

"School-Age Stuttering Therapy: Essentials for Speech-Language Pathologists"

(.1 ASHA CEU)

 

 

FREE with any membership starting at $89/year. View Plans & Pricing HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

First Bite

Michelle L.W. Dawson, MS, CCC-SLP, CLC

 

Craig Coleman, MA CCC-SLP, BCS-F

"Serious Talk About Stuttering in Preschoolers" (.1 ASHA CEU)

 

FREE with any membership starting at $89/year. View Plans & Pricing HERE.

 

 

 

 

Click HERE to view all stuttering courses at SpeechTherapyPD.com.

 

Get unlimited courses for just $89/year. Join SpeechTherapyPD.com today!

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