Words Matter: "Stuttering" and "fluency" are not (always) the best words for kids.
These words are pretty abstract, and even scary for kids - even adults. What does a child think of when he thinks of "fluency"? Probably not much. Except for the fact that adults use "that word" as a positive attribute and value. And when I child hears the word "stuttering"? The word itself is fairly meaningless, unless meaning is attributed to it. In and of itself it is a nonsense word. But kids will notice is is used with a tone of voice, a certain unease and seems to concern the adults who say it. This much is transferred to the child who can come to understand that nonsense worse is taboo.
In this video, we learn about a family of school-age child who stutters, working together to find descriptive language - as opposed to judgmental language (i.e. good/bad) - to talk about stuttering.
If we brainstorm a bit, we can build our own "stuttering vocabulary." This allows us to talk about the elephant in the room with our kids, without using abstract language they don't understand, or judgemental language that can transmit values we don't wish to convey.
Top 5 Words to Talk About "Stuttering"
* NOTICE: Can you see the descriptive language - and the absence of judgemental language?
** Also, try to use words to describe what it is (i.e. "tense"); and not what it's not (i.e. "not easy").
You can see how it gets confusing using negatives ;-)
Top 5 Words TO TALK ABOUT "FLUENCY"
* NOTICE: These words are centered on the experience of the speaker / talker; how it feels for the speaker (i.e. sticky, easy). As opposed to focusing exclusively on how it is perceived by the listener (ie. stuttering or fluent).
EXERCISE: Build YOUR OWN (FAMILY) "vocabulary"
Building a "stuttering vocabulary" could be a great exercise for your family. It can be a fun way to open lines of communication and empower the person/child who stutters, to own the language used to talk about their stuttering.
Contrary to popular beliefs, the act of "talking about stuttering is often liberating - not traumatic. (Provided it is done with respect and nuance.)
TIPS: Try with your family
- Keeping it light-hearted (even fun) thinking of words to describe speech (both "stuttering" and "fluency")
- Brainstorm altogether, or see if each person can create their own list and then share with each other.
- See who can come up with the most words!
- Put the words in a notebook, on your phone notepad or on the fridge; and begin to use these words when talking about speech. You can even discuss sharing "your personalized vocabulary" with therapists, teachers, family.