As readers of my blogs know, I recently returned from a week at Camp Shout Out, a camp for children and adolescents who stutter.
Camp Shout Out, now in its fifth year and the 2014 WOOD TV8 "Connecting with Community Winner," has a mission to bring together youth with fluency problems, Speech Language Pathologists and graduate students guided by Board Certified Specialists-Fluency (BCS-F) to learn, teach and empower each other to become more competent communicators and therapists in a safe, fun and natural environment.
At Camp Shout Out, I made every effort to participate in all the activities--even though many were challenging or downright scary to me. To the great surprise of my husband and children, I did the high ropes course. This experience, which I have written about in a previous blog, taught me how empowering it can be to face andovercome fears. I gained even more empathy for children and adults who stutter, who have to face fears on a daily basis--whether it is fear of reading aloud in class, speaking on the telephone, ordering in a restaurant or even introducing oneself to others.
Another rope activity, the "low ropes course," taught me the value of seeking support from others. As a member of a helping profession, I am used to listening to others and offering advice. I have much less experience depending on others for support.
To climb the low ropes course, I needed the support of the teenage boys and girls to help me climb onto the low rope. By "low ropes," I am talking about a flat rope or strap about four feet off the ground. As there was no staircase, I had to climb onto this rope with the help of these fifteen to seventeen year-olds. I walked across this strap that was anchored between two trees holding onto the rope above for balance. My walk across, however, was shaky; the only way I was able to complete this activity was by relying on the teenage spotters on either side of me to catch me if I fell. They also helped me get down off the rope when I got to the other end.
This is an example of how one can and should rely on others for support. When preparing to make an oral presentation, for example, it is a good idea for people who stutter (and actually everyone) to draw on the support of their families and friends. First practice the presentation alone. Then do it again for your family or friends. Practice may not make perfect, but it should improve your delivery and give your more confidence. Don't be afraid to access your support network; it is there for you.
Joanne Summer, MA, CCC-SLP, a speech-language pathologist based in Morristown, NJ, has helped hundreds of children improve their speech sound production and language skills. She founded Well Spoken Speech Therapy, LLC, in 2014 after spending 12 years providing therapy to children (K-5) in the New Jersey public school system. In private practice, her clients also include younger children and adolescents. In addition, she treats people of all ages who stutter or otherwise find it difficult to speak fluently—an area in which she has received extensive specialized training.