Samantha Schulte, Wendy Batten-Morey, Eve Dutkiewicz
In my time working in a private practice, I have had parent after parent come to me utterly frustrated with the lack of speech services being provided by their school district. Too often these concerned parents are being told that their child does not qualify for services as stuttering does not have an “academic impact.” Unfortunately, this explanation is often being provided not because the child does not warrant services but rather because the therapist does not feel comfortable or competent in providing stuttering therapy.
Even worse, some children are being denied services as a direct result of therapists receiving pressure from their district to limit the students being added to the caseload. Despite the challenges involved in providing stuttering therapy within the school setting, there are many dedicated therapists that demonstrate that it can be done! I want to take this time to spotlight the Kenosha Unified School District, of Kenosha, Wisconsin. Thanks to a small group of devoted speech pathologists working in this district, KUSD has created a monthly therapy and support group, the Friends Stuttering Group (FSG). I hope FSD can act as a model for how school districts around the country choose to serve their students who stutter.
Eve Dutkiewicz MS,CCC-SLP of Tremper High School began the Friends Stuttering Group 5 years ago by applying to her district for a grant. This grant would help fund a monthly meeting that would bring together students from different schools within KUSD. In order to demonstrate the benefits of FSG, Eve used a 5 point scale that measured her students comfort level in various different speaking situations. Using this scale, Eve found that all the children involved in FSG indicated improvements in how they felt about their speech. With a yearly budget of $500, the Friends Stuttering Group has been in operation ever since. FSG is currently run by Eve Dutkiewicz MS, CCC-SLP, Samantha Schulte MA, CCC-SLP , and Wendy Batten-Morey MS,CCC-SLP. Wendy is not only a speech pathologist, but she is also a person who stutters. She is able to offer valuable insight about stuttering with the students and families involved. All the therapists have a great depth of knowledge, with Samantha having specific experience working in clinic that specializes in stuttering. Although these women are the backbone of this group, many of the districts speech pathologists have been known to attend meetings and encourage their own students to join as well.
The Friends Stuttering Group has grown from monthly meetings held at Eve’s house with only 2 students attending, to now as many as 12 students that meet in different local establishments, including laser tag and bowling. What makes this group so special is that not only do the children get a chance to meet peers that share similar experiences and feelings, but their families are also invited to participate. Both the children and their parents are given the opportunity to develop a support system, which is an invaluable aspect of stuttering treatment. In addition to families, classroom teachers have taken the initiative to join these meetings as well. FSG allows for students to practice using their strategies in “real life” situations such as introducing themselves or ordering food. Eve sends out monthly updates to the student’s therapists to share what occurred at the meetings and to pass along articles to assist in educating everyone on stuttering.
With budget cuts and the “politics” involved in receiving funding, therapists interested in starting their own stuttering groups must first work towards educating their school districts about stuttering and the needs of these students. WIth a little bit of creativity to keep costs down and a whole lot of perseverance, the therapists at KUSD were able to create a group that is surely making a substantial impact on the lives of the students involved. If you have any questions about the Friends Stuttering Group and how you might be able to develop a similar group, please comment below and I will be happy to direct questions to the FSG therapists.
Do you have a stuttering therapy or support group similar to this in your community or school district? Please share with us and inspire other therapists to do the same!