Review by Sharon Millard of The Michael Palin Centre for Stammering Children.
Reitzes considers that 'stuttering is a disorder of talking, and stuttering is a disorder of not talking' (p.xvii). The activities, designed for children aged approximately 7-12 years, therefore seek to address the emotional aspects of the disorder by exploring and talking about stuttering, reducing avoidance behaviours as well as encouraging skills within speaking situations.
The book is divided into two parts. The first relates to 'Insights and Ideas for Therapy Success', addressing 'What you need to know about stuttering' and 'Your tools for successful therapy'. The style is positive, encouraging, informal and easy to read, containing personal anecdotes and reports from people who stutter. There is an emphasis throughout on the importance of including parents and peers as part of the therapy process and the value of self-help groups as sources of information and support.
While the literature review of 'What you need to know about stuttering' could be considered cursory, the reader is left with an understanding of the breadth of the problem and real insight about what the characteristics of stuttering mean for individuals. This would be a useful chapter for students or therapists with little experience of stuttering.
The section that considers 'Your tools for successful therapy' is, in my opinion, less useful. The four speech tools included are 'stretching', 'bouncing' and 'voluntary stuttering' aimed at helping the child to stutter more easily, and 'pausing' aimed at helping the child to stutter less often. The difference between stretching and bouncing compared with voluntary stuttering is unclear. It is also not clear why 'pausing' has been selected as the only strategy for increasing fluency and I did not gain an adequate understanding of why or how I would encourage a child to use this method over others. There is a concern that a student or therapist with minimal knowledge or experience may assume that these are the only strategies available since there is no information provided about other methods.
The second part of the book contains 50 'lessons' or activities which may be photocopied, but which are also contained on a CD at the back of the book. The activities are divided into four sections 'Identifying and Exploring Stuttering', 'Practising Speech Tools', 'Learning the Facts', 'Uncovering Feelings' and 'Targeting Language and Stuttering Goals'. Each activity is clearly written, with the rationale and directions clearly explained at the start. There are homework activities included with each, along with ideas about how to extend the activity into the child's home or school environment. I found a number of useful ideas for activities in the 'Uncovering Feelings' section that I would like to try, but was less impressed by the 'Practising Speech Tools' section, largely because of my reservation about the technique of 'pausing'.
This book would be a useful addition for students and therapists, provided they did not have to rely on it as their only resource.
'50 Great Activities for Children who Stutter Lessons: Insights, and Ideas for Therapy Success.' By Peter Reitzes, 2006. Pro-ed Inc.
From the Summer 2008 issue of 'Speaking Out', page 17