I’m excited to begin the first of many blog posts helping walk you through fluency therapy! If you feel like you don’t have the background you need to help your fluency students, you are not alone. I know fluency is a dreaded part of our job for good number of my colleagues, and there’s a good reason why! Most of us just don’t get the hands on experience in school that would make us confident in using treatment techniques. I am going to give an overview of what works for me, and hopefully it will make you more confident in working with these students/clients.
Fluency Lesson #1- Relaxation
Why is relaxation an important part of fluency therapy?
- Relaxation can help with anxiety
Our students are coming from their busy lives into a fluency treatment session. It doesn’t matter if they are a child, an adolescent, or an adult, it helps to come into the room and relax, leaving the worries of the day behind before beginning treatment. When a student is feeling anxious, we can teach them to use relaxation to calm down and consider the emotional aspects of stuttering. We can help them to think of why they are feeling anxious, and learn to relax their bodies to help their minds prepare for a new activity.
- Relaxation can help with proprioceptive awareness
Proprioceptive awareness, or awareness of the body in space, is shown to be an area of weakness for some people who stutter. Guided relaxation brings attention to the tension and relaxation of individual muscle groups, improving overall body awareness. By thinking of our various muscle groups and how they work, we are focusing attention to our body in space and how we are moving, as well as the basic feelings of tension and relaxation. This will be helpful as you move forward in discussing tension and relaxation as it pertains to fluency. It is good to have a general understanding of these terms, and practice in a non-communication context before moving on to practicing fluency shaping techniques.
- Relaxation can help with mindfulness
Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment. The practice of mindfulness has been found to help some people who stutter to become more fluent. When we help clients/students relax and become present in the moment, it helps set the stage for a productive fluency treatment session. You can help your students to focus on there here and now, instead of getting wrapped up in all of the “what ifs” of what is to come.
- Relaxation can help with muscle tension
Muscle tension can occur anywhere in the body during a moment of dysfluency. Being aware of the muscle groups of the body, the feelings of tension and relaxation, and how to achieve muscle relaxation can be useful in managing this physical component of dysfluency.
So how can I work on relaxation?
There are many ways to approach relaxation with your students. Some of these include, exercise, meditation, listening to music, stretching, yoga, and guided relaxation.
My personal favorite is guided relaxation because unlike listening to music and other techniques, the therapist can lead the activity. It is also less intimidating and less physical than yoga or other exercises, which I think makes it more accessible to the average person. It can also be used in mixed groups, since it can be a good way to start any session, regardless of student goals.
In guided relaxation, the speech pathologist reads a script, and the students close their eyes and follow along. The script will typically work through major muscle groups from head to toe, and the SLP can choose whether to read the whole script, or focus on a specific muscle group in any given session.
You can purchase and download my personal script for guided relaxation by clicking the link below:
Speech, Teach, & Love,