Therapy is often more effective when you can reach the students through their outside interests. For two elementary school boys who are sports nuts, a poster in my room of Little League World Series star pitcher, Mo’ne Davis, led to a lively discussion of the parallels between pitching and stuttering.
Despite the tremendous pressure Mo’ne was under, an impressive number of her pitches were completely under her control. But not all. Sometimes, she threw balls, and occasionally even hit the batter. Yet, these moments of lost control didn’t rattle her. In her words, “I just blocked everything out. And stayed calm. And played my game.” But what happens to pitchers who tense up after a wild pitch? The boys have seen this on their own teams and even in the big leagues: a spiral of diminishing control and confidence, resulting in more wild pitches.
My students realized that speaking is a lot like pitching. Many times their speech is under control. But, sometimes, their speech gets away from them and they stutter, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. When they tense up, either because they stuttered, or because they are afraid they will, control and confidence decreases, dysfluency increases.
Taking the parallel further, the boys realized that every pitcher, even the very best in the pros, will throw some balls in every game, and may even hit the batter once in a while. No one is in control of the pitch 100% of the time. In the same way, the boys will always have some episodes of stuttering. Like good pitchers, practice will build control and confidence, and will also help them “block everything out. And stay calm. And play their game” when the pressure is on.
Photo credit: Downloaded from the Facebook page of WHYY, public TV/radio in Philadelphia.