I think it is important to talk a little bit about why we tackle speaking anxiety with our fluency students. A good number of you ask the question, “Is this in our scope of practice?” and the short answer is, absolutely.
So very many of our fluency students experience anxiety, and anxiety leads to muscle tension, which leads to MORE stuttering.
We have touched on using guided relaxation to manage muscle tension, but how do we help our fluency students learn to manage their feelings of stress and anxiety so that they can become more fluent?
Recognizing and understanding anxiety does not come naturally to children, so it helps to guide them through what anxiety is in general before just diving head first into talking to them about their speaking anxiety.
- Talk to about what worries are.
- Talk about negative feelings that worries cause and the difference between negative and positive feelings.
- Talk about how we can get rid of worries and turn negative feelings into positive feelings
For these and other great fluency worksheets, please consider purchasing our Stuttering Made Simple Resource, which can be found here or click any of the pictures above.
Some students will pick speaking anxiety as an example, and if that is what they pick it is fine to to talk through it with them. If they pick something else, such as a fear of the dark, test taking, etc. that is still extremely effective. Although it may SEEM off topic, you are helping the student learn important strategies that they can then carry over into fluency related tasks.
If you feel that the topics of conversation are out of your area of expertise and require more intensive, non speech related therapy beyond just discussing simple positive and negative emotions, that is when I personally would choose to involve a social worker or mental health professional. Working as a collaborative team is important in these instances. Make sure the professional knows your fluency goals and that they are respectful of those goals as they move forward with their therapy. Keep in contact and collaborate as a team with any mental health professionals involved in the care of your client. This may require a signed release of information, which can be completed at the discretion of the parent or guardian of the client or by the client themselves if they are an adult.
It is important that we do not ignore anxiety as it is an integral part of fluency therapy.
As always, if you have any questions about this or any fluency related topic, feel free to comment on this post or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!