Fighting for Fluency When her toddler developed a fluency disorder, this pediatric audiologist knew she needed to act right away. First Person/Last Page
First Person/Last Page  |   January 01, 2015
Fighting for Fluency
Author Notes
  • Jordan King, AuD, CCC-A, is a pediatric audiologist at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock.
    Jordan King, AuD, CCC-A, is a pediatric audiologist at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock.×
Article Information
Speech, Voice & Prosodic Disorders / Fluency Disorders / First Person/Last Page
First Person/Last Page   |   January 01, 2015
Fighting for Fluency
The ASHA Leader, January 2015, Vol. 20, 72. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.20012015.72
The ASHA Leader, January 2015, Vol. 20, 72. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.20012015.72
It was late August 2012. My daughter was 2 years, 8 months old. I had worked tirelessly every day since she was born to cultivate her communication skills—from cooing all the way to those glorious first words and exciting sentences.
I take that back—it wasn’t work. I loved it. I felt a great sense of pride at every new word spoken, every sentence she crafted on her own.
I am a pediatric cochlear implant audiologist and have spent the last 12 years working with children who are trying to overcome significant language delays. How I communicated with my daughter was what I preached to my clients’ parents, and it was working beautifully with my normal-hearing child.
However, my husband and I began noticing something new in our daughter’s speech. We compared stories of isolated instances we’d observed. One night while trying to say something, Georgia Grace got really hung up. My husband was the first to say, “You know my dad stuttered.” I did know, but was not yet willing to be concerned.
We left a few days later for vacation. Twelve hours in the car gives you plenty of time to analyze your child’s speech. The frequency of her difficulty seemed beyond what was normal for her age. We enjoyed our week and then made that drive again, 12 hours, with a toddler who was even more exhausted after her week of vacation.
I did not doubt that her exhaustion heightened the problem, but typical, tired children don’t break down this way. My perfectly fluent daughter could barely get a word out. She was now visibly straining and contorting her face and neck in unnatural ways before yelling out the word that so fiercely eluded her. It actually looked painful. I am not a speech-language pathologist, but I knew what this was.
The drive home was difficult for both of us as she struggled to speak, and I became nauseated with worry. As soon as we got home I e-mailed a friend who is an SLP. She tried to ease my mind and suggested that I video my daughter. Watching the video only confirmed what I already knew. After a fluency evaluation, she began treatment.
The next few weeks were trying as I, under the direction of my co-worker and my daughter’s new SLP, learned a completely new way to communicate with my child. All of the wonderful language stimulation I was so comfortable doing—the narration of all of our daily activities—I tried to continue while speaking in slow—one word per second—connected speech. It was difficult, and I grieved all of the teaching moments that passed us by. I simply was not able to “get it all out” before my busy toddler was on to the next thing.
Over the next 10 months we attended weekly treatment. Our sessions were fun for Georgia Grace and a mixture of encouraging and discouraging for me. A real child who stutters has good and bad fluency cycles. Just when you think fluency has improved, the stuttering appears again. We experienced cycles a few times and transitioned among three different approaches during her treatment. Our SLP was wonderful, approaching treatment creatively and always listening to what I had to report.
We eventually reached our goal—three consecutive months of fluent speech—and to Georgia Grace’s dismay, she was discharged. She no longer got to go play with Ms. Ashlen on Friday mornings. She has not regressed. At times I can see her brain working to make those connections and I know that without treatment she would still be struggling (at nearly 5 years old) to speak her mind.
Early intervention was the key to our quick resolution. Sadly, many parents are told to use the wait-and-see approach when it comes to fluency. I’m so thankful I knew better. I’m grateful that I found support in taking action. I could not stand by and let her little brain continue to learn a dysfluent speech pattern. I had worked too hard and I was determined to hear and enjoy the uninhibited fruits of my labor.
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January 2015
Volume 20, Issue 1