After a few months of therapy we often ask our families to write about their experiences with their child’s speech and starting therapy. These serve several purposes; they help us as clinicians to gauge the progress of therapy, but they also to serve as guidance for new parents who are starting or considering speech therapy for their child. Below are a selection of these stories from parents over the years.
My son, Jack, was very verbal at a young age -- by age two he had a large vocabulary and seemed to talk non-stop. However, around the time he turned three he started to stutter. Words would also be blocked -- he seemed to know what he wanted to say, but just couldn't get the words out. It became so severe, so quickly, that I was actually worried that he had a neurological problem. My happy, bubbly, jabbering three year old was now withdrawn and quiet. His pediatrician recommended immediate speech therapy and after being evaluated by another therapist, I was advised to take Jack to Bonnie McKenzie and the McKenzie Center for Speech and Language -- the specialists.
Bonnie was wonderful with not only Jack, but my husband and me, as well! She took the time to talk to us, answer all of our questions and help us understand better what was happening with our son. She explained the therapy process and taught us E-Z Speech. I will never forget how much better I felt after meeting Bonnie -- knowing that she was going to help us get our son back!
As Bonnie correctly predicted during that first meeting -- there were plenty of ups and downs. Jack began learning E-Z speech at such a young age -- at times I worried that he would never catch on. Sometimes I felt like we would take a few steps forward and then a few back. But just as Bonnie said, it all began to click. Jack began to use E-Z Speech at home at first and then at school and with friends. It became our normal way of speaking. Eventually, I could see that if Jack was talking too fast and having a problem that he would 'catch himself' and start to talk E-Z. Problem solved! Knowing that he will likely deal with this issue his entire life but that he has the skills he needs to help him deal with it, means the world to me.
It's been over four years now and Jack still sees Mr. Blake twice a month. Over the years, Bonnie and Blake have treated Jack with such love, they are really like family! They make the sessions such fun for Jack -- he has never complained ONCE about going to 'speech' and in fact, looks forward to it every time. I feel so fortunate that we found the McKenzie Center for Speech and Language and will be forever thankful to them for ALL they have done for us!
Our daughter Allison was 3 when she first began stuttering, and 4 ½ when she started therapy at the McKenzie Center. When she first began to stutter it came and went. She would stutter when excited, when rushed, when interrupted, and sometimes without any apparent cause. At first I was afraid. It was guttural- I would feel sick in my gut. I had this extremely beautify, above average intelligence child that [at the time] I was afraid would have a lifelong disability. We were told by her pediatrician that it would go away, or that she would outgrow it. When we had her evaluated by our school district they scored her as “mild”, because we saw them on a “good day”.
We were overwhelmingly relieved when we first spoke to Bonnie on the phone- she told me that since Allison was scoring “mild”, it was likely that she was not going to stutter in a controlled situation, and that that was common. She was the first person to believe me when I told her that Allison had a serious stuttering problem.
The family training was much longer and in-depth than we we’d anticipated. We went in expecting to be bored and given more information that we needed. We thought we “knew it all”. The family training surprised us. IT WAS CRUCIAL and incredibly helpful. It was the first real step in helping Allison, and we also had her grandparents attend as well.
The things that helped were playing “EZ games”. We made dinner time our EZ speech time. We would all guess who could be the EZiest at dinner, and always let Allison win. Her older (8 years) sister helped tremendously. She was our ally, and things really started to improve when she attended a few sessions with Allison, and then would help to model EZ speech and get Allison into the “EZ mindset” again.
Now, in a situation where Allison repeats a 1st syllable, we all become “EZ” instantly. It does not happen often. Allison was “remediated” and fluent within a 4 month period. Now we are working on reminding ourselves that we can’t just coast- we must continue to use the EZ speech and help Allison to do so, that this truly becomes a habit.
My son John (now 10) began stuttering at 4 years old. I first noticed him having blocks and crying because he was stuck on a sound. My first feelings were of guilt; I am a stutterer also and I thought he inherited from me and my grandfather. Using EZ speech gives John a way to begin words and sentences. John has gone to camp with Bonnie for 2 years and just loves it. We live in Columbia, MO, so getting to weekly sessions during the school year is difficult. At the family training we were trained to use EZ speech at home, and it does help me and John.
The hardest things were keeping up the ongoing maintenance and phone calls to Bonnie. The best things were meeting other kids that stuttered and John having fun with it. Something that helped was learning to not be ashamed of stuttering. John is more confident now with his speech. He still has “bumps” in his speech sometimes, but he is not as concerned about them.
My son Daniel was 4 ½ when he first began stuttering, and started therapy at 4 ½ as well. I first noticed Daniel stuttering when we changed his preschool. We thought his new environment was so stimulating that he was overwhelmed. My first thought was that it would pass on its own, developmentally as my daughter’s stuttering had done. Others told not to worry, but to keep an eye out for secondary gestures. We decided to start therapy when we noticed that he started to hold his forehead as if to hold it all still so words would come out, and began displaying other ticks. The family training was eye-opening. Seeing scientific research and medical explanations for what was happening eased the guilt that somehow we had “caused” this.
The hardest things were making the necessary adjustments at home with siblings and other family members. It was hard to make EZ a part of our world outside of the center. Motivational charts from the center really helped in the transition.
The best things were watching Daniel’s body language as he played games while learning to be EZ. He was smiling, motivated and comfortable. His confidence blossomed here. The things that helped a lot were charts, rewards, games, games, games. The parent conversations in the waiting room helped for me as well.
Initially we were kind of hoping to be the kid that got it quickly and completed therapy in 6 months. We’ve realized that although the quick progress in the beginning was wonderful, slow and steady is the best. It’s been about 4 months now and Daniel now attends 1 individual session a week, and one group session with other kids weekly. We are still working on implementing EZ speech at home, and at preschool as well.
Our daughter Grace was 2 years old when she first started having trouble with stuttering. I thought she might just be going through a phase; at the time we had a lot of changes in our life as a family.
We made an appointment with Grace’s pediatrician about her dysfluency, and he said that was probably just a phase, but if we noticed that it was affecting her self-esteem or that she was aware of it, we should have her evaluated. Her speech continued to get worse, and one night as we were reading books, Grace said “Mommy, I can’t talk”. That was it for me, and we decided to get her therapy.
For the family training we decided to include family members that Grace was in the closest contact with, such as her grandparents and her aunt. The session informed us of how to help Grace, and things NOT to say such as “Slow down” or “take your time”, which we had been saying to her prior to the counseling.
Initially it was hard to incorporate EZ speech. It felt awkward. We struggled with remembering to be EZ, especially when we weren’t talking directly to Grace. To help remember we could play an EZ game of Candyland, and calling Ms. Bonnie’s voicemail was not only a reminder for Grace, but for me as well.
It was amazing to see the changes after EZ speech. Some of the milestones were that she would only stutter when she was excited, tired, or nervous. Then that got better and she would repeat entire phrases instead of getting stuck on one word. Grace then started to correct herself. If she started off bumpy, she would stop and say the word to herself and then start again EZ.
As of now we are going once every three weeks and she is still doing GREAT!!! We are so proud of her.
Some advice for other parents would be not to wait until your child is older to start speech therapy, because it may not be a phase. And once your child starts to become more fluent, don’t back off with your EZ speech. You have to keep using it to help them really learn it. There is a phrase “there are two times to pray, when you think you need to and when you don’t think you need to”. EZ speech is the same. Your child needs your help to learn and use EZ speech, so use it when you think you need to AND when you don’t think you need to.