For many people, October-December is the most wonderful time of the year filled with good food and company. But for others, this time of the year can be busy and stressful, overfilling our internal buckets. This bucket analogy is frequently used by stuttering specialist, Dr. J. Scott Yaruss, and illustrates the idea that many factors can affect stuttering, including child factors (genetics, temperament), interpersonal stressors (life changes, fast-paced lifestyle), and communicative stressors (competition for talking time, frequent interruptions). We like to encourage families to try to lower the level of the bucket, since we all communicate best under the least amount of stress and pressure.
Here are some practical ways to try to pour out some of the bucket’s contents when it gets filled
with the uncontrollable holiday bustle:
1. Include some space and time for quiet as a family
When our homes are filled with family and friends, especially those we haven’t seen in a while, conversations can be found at every corner. This can take a toll on those who stutter who might not enjoy, and may even anxiously anticipate, constantly conversing. Before a big gathering…
- Do: Enjoy leisure activities together that don’t require as much talking like coloring, reading, puzzles, legos, play-doh, etc.
- Try to avoid: Activities that encourage pressure, speed, and are verbally taxing such as competitive board games.
2. Keep the joy, lower the excitement
Children may have a more difficult time speaking when worked up in either a positive or negative way. Still speak about the great time that will be had during the holidays, but try to limit ramping up emotions and building a lot of anticipation.
- Do: Speak positively “I love getting to try so many different kinds of candy on Halloween.”
- Try to avoid: Speaking to heighten emotions “Aren’t you excited to show off your new costume?!”
3. Practice stressful areas
You know your child best, and when and where they communicate their best. You know if your child is a perfectionist, and can anticipate that when other children come over, win games and take toys, yours may be very thrown off. Or, you may know your child to be on the shyer side making trick-or-treating a difficult activity. Practicing these scenarios with people that are familiar to the child and in a controlled environment can help transfer readiness and emotional preparedness for the more spontaneous encounters.
- Do: Talk about emotions! Encourage losing and still having fun. Talk about how nice it feels when your child shares a toy with you. Practice knocking on bedroom doors and saying “trick or treat!”. Have your child switch roles with you in each scenario to be the winner/loser, sharer/taker, etc.
- Try to avoid: Rewarding only winning and reacting negatively when things don’t go perfectly.
4. Encourage and advocate
Our children may be meeting visiting guests for the first time, who may bring up that they stutter. This is a great opportunity to advocate for your child and to address the situation head on. Speaking openly and positively about stuttering helps children feel empowered to be themselves, and reduces the chance of children developing avoidance behaviors.
- Do: Learn about stuttering with your child (myths/facts, famous people who stutter, etc.) to build their confidence and eliminate negative associated feelings about stuttering. Acknowledge the stutter, acknowledge that he/she/they is/are trying to find strategies to speak smoother through therapy, talk about your child’s strengths.
- Try to avoid: Avoiding the conversation of stuttering and using vocabulary that portrays it as negative such as “fixing” or “correcting” it.
Feel free to reach out to your Speech-Language Pathologist for additional suggestions relevant to your child and their plan of care. For more stuttering related-resources, check out stutteringtherapyresources.com.
By Mariel Manuel, MS, CCC-SLP