In 2019, Stuttering Therapy Resources Co-Owner Nina Reeves coined the term "Verbal Diversity™" as a way of expressing our views about stuttering—specifically, that stuttering should be viewed as one example of how people speak...not disordered or bad; simply different.
This view permeates everything we do at STR, as you can see in this excerpt from our new book, Go-To Guide™: GETTING STARTED with School-Age Stuttering Therapy:
Anyone who has ever read about stuttering knows that there are many different approaches, ideas, thoughts, and philosophies about this condition. Everyone seems to have their own opinion about what stuttering is and how it should be treated, and here at Stuttering Therapy Resources, we do too! Our approach to stuttering is a bit different than some might expect, however, given that we are speech-language pathologists who have spent decades treating and supporting people who stutter.
Rather than approaching stuttering as an “atypical behavior” that needs to be “remediated” or as a “disorder” that needs to be “overcome,” we view stuttering as an example of Verbal Diversity—one of the many ways that people might speak. Yes, it might be different from how other people speak but it is not, in and of itself, an “incorrect” or “disordered” way of speaking.
Taking this world view about stuttering has many consequences.
- First, we do not believe that people have to stop (or even reduce) stuttering to be successful. Countless examples of successful people who stutter prove this. (See Go-To Guide Activities 4.3 & 4.4.)
- Second, we can help students (and caregivers) begin the process of coming to terms with stuttering right from the beginning of therapy. (See nearly all of the activities in our Go-To Guide!)
- Third, we focus on helping students communicate effectively, regardless of whether or how much they might stutter. (See School-Age Stuttering Therapy: A Practical Guide.)
- Fourth, we affirm students’ identities as people who stutter rather than reinforcing the harmful, ableist message that they need to fix stuttering or “talk right” in order to be “okay.”
None of this means that we are “giving up” on helping students speak more easily. For many students, learning communication strategies is an important part of therapy. Still, we must ensure that handling stuttering does not come at the cost of self-esteem and self-acceptance as people who stutter. Of course, there is much more to say about this. For now, always remember that it is okay to stutter!