Case studies from the Michael Palin Centre.
Aimon is 6 years old and has been attending the Centre for 18 months. He has been stammering since he was 3 years old. His parents have attended parent-child interaction therapy, to find ways that they can support him with his talking at home. They have regular special times with him at home when they focus on slowing their rate of talking down and letting Aimon lead the play. His younger sister has also been involved in some therapy sessions, to practice taking turns with the whole family. As Aimon has got older, he has started to become more aware of his talking being difficult sometimes and recently he said he would like some help. He has recently been learning ‘bus talking’ which helps him to slow down his talking and to give himself time to think, which helps him to be more fluent. He said it is ‘easy to talk’ when he uses bus talking. His mum is also pleased with how Aimon has progressed, saying that he no longer blinks his eyes or gets tense in his body when he stammer, he is much more confident now and he is talking so much her friends don’t recognise that he is the same child as a year ago.
Chris & Caroline
Chris and Caroline attended an intensive 2 week course at the Centre 2 years ago. Before the course they described their son as ‘becoming more of an introvert’ and ‘more frustrated and upset’ about his speech. They said he was ‘living a lonely life in isolation because of his difficulties in communication with other people’. Having attended the course his parents said that he no longer felt alone, he had gained in confidence to speak out in class and to manage the bullying he had received in the past. ‘It has helped our son regain the smile we felt he was losing as a result of the frustrations he had felt for many years’.
Emily was referred to the Centre by her school-based speech and language therapist when she started stammering at the age of 6. She has some difficulties with her speech and language skills and receives speech and language therapy support in school to develop these skills. Emily had been stammering for just over one year when she came to the Centre and her parents were becoming more concerned. Emily attended a course of Parent Child Interaction Therapy with her parents (including a session with her brothers and sisters to support them to manage family turn-taking at home). Following this therapy, Emily is no longer stammering at home and her speech and language therapist at school commented that her teachers do not notice her getting stuck on her words anymore. Her parents said that if the stammering returns, they now feel much more confident in knowing how to manage it.
When Hannah came to the Centre with her parents for an assessment, she had been stammering for around 18 months. Her stammering was noticeable and there was tension in her face and body when she got stuck on words. Her parents described her as a very sensitive girl who often worries about things and gets upset easily. This was impacting on how she coped in class as she often became tearful and took a long time to complete work as she was keen to get it ‘just right’. Her parents said that she agonised over answering the register in class and would often practice this with her parents at home. Her teachers said that Hannah was becoming increasingly embarrassed by her speech and was starting to opt out of speaking in the class.
Hannah and her parents attended a course of Palin Parent Child Interaction therapy and the speech and language therapist also visited Hannah’s school to discuss with her teachers ways they could help to manage her stammering, her emotions and her worries in school and to support her to build her confidence and self-esteem. Hannah’s stammering is now much less evident and her teachers report that she is much more confident and happy in school. They even said she is sometimes the first to finish her work! Hannah’s parents know that they are able to return to the Centre at any time should her stammering increase again, or if they need any further support.
Liam had stammered since he was a little boy. It had not troubled him too much in primary school but at 15 he was becoming increasingly frustrated and sometimes depressed about the problem.
When Liam attended the Centre for the assessment, he described the situations when talking had become a real struggle for him. He was aware of particular letters and words being difficult and that he had developed lots of strategies to hide the problem. Academic pressures were also increasing because of the demands of the school curriculum which included oral presentations, discussions, debates and his impending GCSEs.
There were also anxieties about having a social life. He had friends but meeting new people and going to parties had started to become a nightmare because all the issues and worries to do with being a teenager had become exaggerated by the stammer.
Liam attended a two-week intensive group therapy course for young adults which was held in the summer holidays. His parents came for one day to meet other parents who wanted to know more about the course and how to help.
At the beginning of the course, Liam said that he wanted to be more fluent, confident and relaxed in all situations. By the end of the two weeks, Liam had learned that he had some good strategies for being more fluent in lots of situations, that his confidence in being able to tackle situations had increased – and he started to understand that nobody is totally fluent all of the time!
More importantly, Liam had benefited from making friends with other people who stammer. Through sharing ideas, problem solving and practising new skills he felt that he had more control of his life. Liam knows that he can make an appointment for a top-up whenever he wants to.