by Ana Paula G. Mumy, MS, CCC-SLP
I had been a speech-language pathologist for 15 years when I came to the stark realization that I knew nothing about stuttering. Suddenly, stuttering was staring me in the face when my 3-year-old son began to stutter. Up to that point, I had very little exposure and experience working with people who stutter, and I felt totally unprepared and incompetent in this area. The couple of children who stuttered I had served also had other co-occurring communication challenges, so, in my ignorance, stuttering generally took the back seat, as I focused on the other areas that seemed more “relevant.”
Because of my son, I dove in and became a student again – taking webinars, reading, listening to podcasts, attending conferences and camps. In the last 5 years, I have become passionate about serving people who stutter. My son eventually recovered, but stuttering left an imprint on my heart, and my newfound passion changed the course of my professional focus.
In this process, I came to the realization that so many SLPs have similar stories. It was the first time I truly understood what it means to be a generalist in a field where our scope of practice is simply too large. I found published studies documenting the inadequate training we receive in graduate school in the area of fluency disorders. I found other studies showing that stuttering is a low preference disorder among SLPs and how a vast number of SLPs feel inadequate and uncomfortable treating stuttering, even after many years of professional experience. That is how the nonprofit organization, Spero Stuttering, was birthed.
My sister, Rachel Dawson, co-founded Spero Stuttering with me because she struggled to find SLPs who knew how to work with her twin boys who stutter. We have also encountered story after story of speech therapy that causes more harm than good, so we strongly believe that we must incentivize more training in the area of fluency disorders and provide recognition for more training.
Additionally, I have reflected a lot on our Certificate of Clinical Competence. As a parent, when my sister began looking for an SLP for her boys, in her mind the CCCs were a valid indication that the therapists working with her boys were knowledgeable about stuttering. Unfortunately, we know that having your CCCs does not mean much in the area of stuttering given the fact that many universities are not providing even a full course on stuttering. We also know that a large majority of graduate students are graduating without ever working with a fluency client.
That is how the Ally of Stuttering™ SLP seal came to be. The seal is an accessible training path for the generalist SLP to learn more about stuttering, people who stutter, and research-based therapy approaches. It recognizes that the SLP holding the seal has a special interest in stuttering and has received intentional training beyond graduate school. The seal also recognizes that the Ally of Stuttering™ is committed to ongoing training and professional development in the area of fluency disorders at regular intervals.
Our desire is to equip more SLPs, particularly school-based SLPs, to treat stuttering with confidence and effectiveness. As Dr. Yaruss often asserts, “Every speech-language pathologist can be a superb clinician for helping people who stutter; the key is to understand the true nature of the condition.” We fully agree, thus our vision is to help, empower, and advocate for the stuttering community and their families by equipping those who work with people who stutter.
Visit https://www.sperostuttering.org/ to learn more about Spero Stuttering and the Ally of Stuttering™ seal.