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View Full Version : Speech Problems and a Stubborn Kid



ginnyjf
02-06-2012, 12:43 PM
Argh, excuse me while I tear out handfuls of hair this morning.

My son is a pleasure to homeschool, he really is. He is sweet, works hard, is polite and obedient, will tackle almost anything I ask of him, and on and on. He also has a stutter. He's been in speech therapy since he was four years old and he is now 9-1/2.

His therapist has taught him several techniques to use for his stuttering and when he uses them, he is nearly 100% fluent. Problem is, he won't use his techniques unless he's in a therapy session with her. I've discussed this issue with her several times and all of her suggestions (have a signal you use when he needs to work on his techniques; have a reward jar when you catch him using his techniques without prompting) just haven't worked. Negative reinforcement doesn't work. Positive reinforcement doesn't work. When I gently remind him, he clams up and refuses to speak at all.

I am sorry to say that my frustration level has grown to such a point that I actually embarrassed him this morning. I tried to show him what his facial tics look like when he is struggling to begin a sentence and I reduced him to tears. I wasn't *trying* to shame him but that's what happened and before anyone jumps on me, I know how counterproductive and downright damaging it is. I've apologized.

But why won't he use his techniques around me?!?!?!?! (I never use interrobangs. That's how frustrated I am.) If I try to gently remind him, he rolls his eyes. If I catch him using techniques and praise him, he rolls his eyes. I know he's entering those tween years where it's normal to rebel and resist, but he doesn't realize how important speaking fluently will be to him in his future. And the fact that he can be 100% fluent if he works at it is doubly and triply frustrating to me.

I wouldn't freak out as much if he didn't fall into some extremely bad habits when he's not using his techniques (facial grimaces, exaggerated intake of breath before speaking, multiple disfluencies within a sentence). When he uses his techniques regularly these habits disappear and he is fluent so he's only hurting himself by digging in his heels and being so stubborn. And I swear I am having one of those days where I'm thinking homeschooling is just making the problem worse because he can get away with NOT using his techniques. We read out loud every day and he does oral reports but he would be involved in more conversations in school.

Someone talk me off the ledge or give me a kick in the pants, whichever is warranted.

Accidental Homeschooler
02-06-2012, 01:17 PM
We have a similar problem with reversing letters and numbers. When we do writing she does not reverse them at all. Her handwriting is really nice, but only in her handwriting work. We just did a math problems and she got the math right but still reversed 99% of the numbers in her answers. It seems like she has compartmentalized it and if I start correcting her during math she gets all frustrated and the math part goes out the window, which I don't want either. I know she can write them correctly but not if she is really focused on something else, like figuring out the math. Does your son's speech improve when he is around other kids? If it does then maybe you can find some ways to increase his access to groups. I think school might be motivating but it would be to avoid shame and embarassment. Good luck though, that sounds really frustrating for both of you.

dbmamaz
02-06-2012, 06:22 PM
Well, we all know i tend to be a little laid back, but here's my thought . . . its hard work to use his 'techniques' to overcome stuttering, tics, stammering, and all that jazz. Hard work. Tiring work. Sometimes, he just wants to relax and speak in a way that is comfortable for him. Its not comfortable for YOU . . . you hear it and see it as 'wrong'. You want him to present himself to the world as perfectly as he can. But let him have a safe space where he doesn't have to be shiny. Maybe agree that he HAS to use his techniques during oral reports and (idk, dinner? something a few times a day for practice), but the rest of the day you'll let him stutter.

Batgirl
02-06-2012, 08:48 PM
I second Cara about only requiring it during certain times but I wonder if life/natural consequences won't be the final teacher here. In other words, he'll start doing it when he fully realizes how much it benefits him. He may be too young to understand the extent of his own problem right now. Does he get many social opportunities, like classes or a co-op? That might help.

ginnyjf
02-06-2012, 10:30 PM
Does your son's speech improve when he is around other kids? If it does then maybe you can find some ways to increase his access to groups.

He has a nice group of friends, other homeschoolers and some old friends from his traditional school days, but he usually sees them one-on-one. When he's around his friends, he stutters but no one seems to care. I will say that his stuttering isn't as exaggerated with his friends as what I see, so it's possible he's more relaxed with his friends. The only time he was ever teased for stuttering was in an art class with varying ages and about 15 students.

ginnyjf
02-06-2012, 10:33 PM
But let him have a safe space where he doesn't have to be shiny. Maybe agree that he HAS to use his techniques during oral reports and (idk, dinner? something a few times a day for practice), but the rest of the day you'll let him stutter.

His therapist suggested this as well. I like him to try to be fluent when reading aloud, when conversing with people outside of the family and when he uses the phone. The rest of the time I try to let him be, but those facial tics scare the crud out of me. He will open up his mouth and grimace and make the most horrible noises and contort his face. And what is so frustrating is it's not really necessary...it's just a bad habit that he falls into when he's not practicing. When he is trying and using his techniques he can be 100% fluent without any kind of tic at all. Argh again.

ginnyjf
02-06-2012, 10:37 PM
I second Cara about only requiring it during certain times but I wonder if life/natural consequences won't be the final teacher here. In other words, he'll start doing it when he fully realizes how much it benefits him. He may be too young to understand the extent of his own problem right now. Does he get many social opportunities, like classes or a co-op? That might help.

He's very social but also an introvert so he prefers small groups or one-on-one. He has friends over constantly but they don't notice his stutter or they don't care and I never correct him when he's around his buddies.

I would love more than anything to not worry about his stutter for now, but his therapist has warned me that the longer he uses facial contortion and exaggerated breathing to force words out, the more ingrained these behaviors will become. And right now, he can be 100% fluent when he uses his techniques, so I fear a laissez-faire attitude will result in a worsening of his stutter rather than an improvement.

Having said that, I know I'm pushing him a little hard right now.

Accidental Homeschooler
02-06-2012, 10:45 PM
He has a nice group of friends, other homeschoolers and some old friends from his traditional school days, but he usually sees them one-on-one. When he's around his friends, he stutters but no one seems to care. I will say that his stuttering isn't as exaggerated with his friends as what I see, so it's possible he's more relaxed with his friends. The only time he was ever teased for stuttering was in an art class with varying ages and about 15 students.

My dd has a stutter, not as difficult as what you are describing. Her stutter is at the end of words. When she was in school the AEA observed her in class and called it a mild stutter and gave us a list of things to do and thought it would sort itself out. We have an evaluation coming up. I would feel the same way as you as far as wanting my child to use the therapy techniques outside of therapy. If that is very difficult to do it seems like practicing at home would make it get easier over time. Maybe consider what has been suggested by Cara and Batgirl and talk to him about doing using them for parts of the day. Is stuttering, or I guess not stuttering, going to get easier if he practices or will it always be difficult and require a lot of focus/effort? I know so little about it at this point. When I was told dd was mild, and we had so much else going on with her, the stutter went to the bottom of my list.

edit:
OK, now I just read all of your responses. I can really see why you are so worried. Could you sit down with him and make a contract and make sure that he gets to require something from you also (ex: I am not allowed to say anything about it during the parts of the day where you are not supposed to be working on it)?

dbmamaz
02-07-2012, 12:30 AM
Ok, but wait, stuttering and tics are two different things. Tics are . . . VERY hard to control. My son was dx'd with tourettes and everything I read stressed LETTING them tic. Its not harmful at all. It can be controlled to varying degrees, but what I read said its like holding in a sneeze . . . you can only stop it for so long, it HAS to come out. Its not a bad habit, it IS necessary, and I dont understand why its scary.

Ok, let me back up a bit. My sons tics freaked me out at first. I was really concerned. finally tic disorder was added to his final list of 6 disorders, and I read up about it, and i realized that compared to bipolar and all that, it was minor. For him, I think in the end, it works well as an early warning system - kids can tell a mile away that there is something funny about him, so only NICE kids will even bother talking to him.

The only time it scared me - we've had a few REALLY bad flares, so bad that he couldnt hold his head still to read a book. When we finally went to the neurologist to get the tourettes dx (as opposed to tic disorder NOS), he suggested a few things if it ever gets that bad again. But mostly, his tics are kept very mild from his bipolar meds, which also work on tics (except that sometimes being on them for too long can cause another tic-like disorder, lovely)

I guess I'm worried that you are calling tics a speech impediment when they are really two different things. A speech therapist isnt a tic expert and . . . trying to make kids not tic is like trying to make them change their hair color . . .

ginnyjf
02-07-2012, 11:07 AM
Ok, but wait, stuttering and tics are two different things. Tics are . . . VERY hard to control.

Oh, dear. I misused the word "tic." He doesn't tic. What he does is very common with some ingrained dysfluencies; he holds a lot of tension in his body and face while he's trying to get the initial word of a sentence out. He'll stretch his mouth open and squint his eyes and force the word out with an exaggerated breath. Once it's out, he's off and running and his speech is fluent with no facial contortions at all. The contortions are just a bad habit and if he takes the time to relax and take a deep breath, they disappear. He's been evaluated by a neurologist and we know we're just dealing with a common dysfluency and nothing more complicated...but thank you!

ginnyjf
02-07-2012, 11:15 AM
Is stuttering, or I guess not stuttering, going to get easier if he practices or will it always be difficult and require a lot of focus/effort? I know so little about it at this point. When I was told dd was mild, and we had so much else going on with her, the stutter went to the bottom of my list.

edit:
OK, now I just read all of your responses. I can really see why you are so worried. Could you sit down with him and make a contract and make sure that he gets to require something from you also (ex: I am not allowed to say anything about it during the parts of the day where you are not supposed to be working on it)?

He will always stutter and will always need to use his techniques. It's odd that after sitting in on almost six years' worth of speech therapy, I now notice people on television or on the radio who are using techniques like stretching out initial sounds or intentionally bouncing on difficult words; I never really noticed before. As he practices and becomes more skilled, his techniques will begin to feel more natural instead of forced and will blend a bit better with his normal speech pattern. His therapist explained that it's like learning how to drive. When you're first behind the wheel of a car you have to think about everything you're doing and after you've been driving a few years, it all becomes automatic. So I know I need to be gentle and patient with him right now. He's told me that his techniques sound "weird" to him so he just needs encouragement to continue.

And I LOVE your idea of a contract that requires something of me, too! Because it's the one thing I tend to nag at him about, so of course he's going to be resistant. He struggles in math but I don't push him. His fine motor skills are delayed so his handwriting is horrible, but I don't push him. If he works at it every day, he'll improve. But the stutter just bugs me and I'm terrible about wanting a quick fix. It's wonderful how "talking" it out in the forum has helped clarify things for me.

dbmamaz
02-07-2012, 11:42 AM
Ok, sorry I misunderstood . . .obviously, tics are a bit of an issue here

Accidental Homeschooler
02-07-2012, 06:21 PM
It's wonderful how "talking" it out in the forum has helped clarify things for me.

I have found it helpful also, to have access to so many people who are hsing and their experience or just a place to get a different viewpoint when mine is all tied up in the frustration of the moment.

Batgirl
02-07-2012, 10:34 PM
Thanks for sharing, Ginny! Let us know if the contract idea works, would ya?