By: Catherine Coughlan, M.A., CCC-SLP
In addition to speech and language services, there are a variety of stuttering support groups that can benefit children, teens, and adults who stutter. Participation in stuttering support groups is one of the best ways to grow in a supportive community of people who “get it”. It can offer a sense of empowerment, confidence, and freedom of communication.
What is a stuttering support group?
Stuttering support groups are provided by organizations who support the mission of connecting people who stutter (PWS) and bringing a sense of community. Stuttering can feel isolating, and support groups help bring a sense of togetherness. While each stuttering support group is unique in the services they provide, each has an underlying goal of supporting people who stutter by providing a safe space for people to share their voice and their experiences.
What are the benefits of joining a stuttering support group?
There are so many benefits to joining a stuttering support group! For the individual that stutters, it can offer a safe space for people to stutter openly and share their voice and experiences. Participants are given as much time as they need to talk and self-expression is encouraged in all forms! It is also a great opportunity to make connections. Oftentimes, attendees and their families forge relationships that last lifetimes. For the families of people who stutter, support groups can be a great source for information, resources, and connections. There is immense value gained in sharing with and learning from other families at different stages in their journeys with stuttering.
What does the research say?
- In a research study that sent surveys to adults that stutter, the following conclusion was drawn:
- “Respondents overwhelmingly reported that their participation (in a stuttering support group) has a positive effect on their self-image and their acceptance of stuttering” (Yarsus et al., 2002).
- In a research study conducted about the impact on thoughts and feelings related to stuttering after attending a Stuttering Support Group Convention: (Gerlach et al., 2019)
- “Research has also shown that for kids and teens who have attended a FRIENDS Convention, they have significantly less adverse reactions to speaking and stuttering has significantly less negative impact on their lives” (Gerlach et al., 2019).
- “Young people who stutter showed a significant increase in their knowledge about stuttering and in the general positivity of their feelings toward stuttering after attending the convention.”
- “Young people who stutter experience cognitive and affective benefits associated with participating in a SSO (Stuttering Support Organization) convention”
- In a research study conducted looking at how adults responded to attending stuttering support group meetings on a consistent basis: (Murgallis et al., 2014)
- “The members believed that their involvement in meetings led them to positively change their views about stuttering and their own acceptance of their stuttering.”
- “An added bonus was that members believed that the group has sustained over time with regular attendance because of social networking opportunities provided to members outside the support group meetings.”
- A survey conducted by the National Stuttering Project revealed the most important aspects of support groups were: (Krauss-Lehrman & Reeves, 1989)
- “sharing feelings, thoughts and experiences”
- “giving stutterers a non-threatening place to talk”
- “helping people who stutter feel better about themselves”.
Does it cost to join a stuttering support group?
No! Most stuttering support groups in the area are run by non-profit organizations and are offered free of charge.
What are the stuttering support groups in my area?
There are so many amazing options for stuttering support groups right here in the DMV (DC/Maryland/Virginia) area and beyond! Many offer both in-person and virtual programming.
- The Stuttering Association for the Young (SAY): www.say.org
- SAY is a non-profit organization that aims to support and empower young people who stutter by bringing together a community of people who stutter and providing a safe space to share their voice.
- SAY has programming in New York and DC for young people who stutter, as well as some virtual options for participation!
- The programs are free of charge for participants.
- SAY provides a space to get to know other people who stutter, meet new friends, and have fun!
- SAY has a focus on using the Arts (creative/performing arts) to support individuals who stutter – however you do not need to be an artist to join the programs!
- SAY also has a summer camp (Camp SAY) for kids who stutter (ages 8-18) every summer.
- FRIENDS: The National Association of Young People who Stutter: https://www.friendswhostutter.org/
- The Mission of FRIENDS is “to provide support, education, and empowerment to children and teens who stutter, their families and clinicians”
- FRIENDS hosts annual conventionals and regional one-day conferences that provide experiences to create friendships and impact lasting feelings about stuttering.
- FRIENDS provides opportunities for both the child/teen/young adult who stutters as well as their families – it is a great way to connect with other families and share experiences.
- FRIENDS hosts virtual meet-ups on Zoom for different age groups including a parent group for parents of children who stutter. It is a great place to connect, share experiences, and ask questions!
- National Stuttering Association (NSA): https://westutter.org/
- NSA is a national organization for kids, families, and adults.
- The message at NSA is that “if you stutter, you are not alone”.
- The organization has local chapters that have both adult meetings and kids/family meetings. The meetings are a safe space to talk about stuttering and feelings around stuttering, if you want.
- Local chapter meetings happen on a monthly basis
- NSA also holds an annual conference to bring together a larger community of people who stutter as well as professionals who are passionate about supporting PWS.
Do you live outside the DMV area and want to find stuttering support groups in your area? Reach out to our clinic and we can support you in finding a local chapter near you!
When is the right time to join a stuttering support group?
Anytime! Stuttering support groups are always welcoming new members and families at any point in their stuttering journey. Whether you are actively receiving speech and language services, looking to start speech and language services, have graduated from speech and language services, or felt speech and language therapy was not the right fit for you- joining a stuttering support group can be a great step. Building a community of support can be a valuable part of a child’s stuttering journey, and for their family members and caregivers as well.
I have questions about Stuttering Support Groups, who should I contact?
Feel free to reach out to The Stuttering Clinic at National Therapy Center (email@example.com). Our clinicians frequently collaborate with a variety of stuttering support groups. We will happily answer questions and connect you with individuals within organizations as needed!
FRIENDS: The National Association of Young People who Stutter: https://www.friendswhostutter.org/
Gerlach, H., Hollister, J., Caggiano, L., & Zebrowski, P. (2019) The utility of stuttering support organization conventions for young people who stutter. Journal of Fluency Disorders 62.
Krauss-Lehrman, T. & Reeves, L. (1989) Attitudes towards speech-language pathology and support groups: Results of a survey of members of the National Stuttering Project. Texas Journal of Audiology and Speech Pathology, XV(1), 22-25.
Murgallis, T., Vitale, C. & Tellis, G. M. (2014). Perceptions of persons who stutter before and after attending support group meetings. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 193, 202-208.
National Stuttering Association: www.westutter.com
SAY: The Stuttering Association for the Young (SAY): www.say.org
Yarsus, J. S., Wuesal, R. W., Reeves, L., Molt, L. F., Kluetz, B., Caruso, A.J., McClure, J.A., & Lewis, F. (2002). Speech treatment and support group experiences of people who participate in the National Stuttering Association. Journal of Fluency Disorders, 27, 115-134.