Let’s face it, tweens and teens have it rough all around at this age. You’re growing up, starting to compare yourself to your peers, discovering what ‘cool’ means and how it’s defined in your environment, and you’re striving to be just like everyone else so that you’re a part of that ‘group.’ Throw stuttering in the mix, and it can be most definitely harder for teens to navigate self-discovery and to find their voice.
Being unique, or considered ‘different,’ even though, as we get older we realize these are the exact features that make us who we are and therefore ‘cool,’ can be a really challenging thing to embrace. Extroverts may find it slightly easier, but truly figuring out that the more you are who you are, the more you let people know what you have to say (*spoiler: because it IS really important), the more you advocate in small (or big) ways for yourself, the more the people around you will actually respect, accept, and dare I say, even think you’re ‘cool.’
It’s no easy feat to begin the process of being more authentically you as a teenager who stutters. However, consider taking small steps towards your goals by asking yourself questions like: “How can I step out of my comfort zone just a little bit today?” or “If my goal is X…and I’m not there just yet…is there a smaller step I may be ready to take on and hold myself accountable for?”
It’s true, there’s not necessarily gain without (a little) pain. But it should be manageable little shifts that hopefully result in larger changes. Think about spreading education to people in your life that would feel meaningful—if, for instance, your teacher feels hard, start with a family member, then build up from there. Consider other aspects of your communication, not just stuttering. I bet if you focused on great eye-contact, confident posture, and volume that you’d start to begin to feel more confident (I’d also bet stuttering would start to get a bit easier too).
And lastly, I don’t think we embark on anything difficult without a little inspiration, hope, and examples of what we aspire to be. I have some favorite videos, resources, and articles that I like to recommend to teens and tweens who stutter in therapy that I’d like to share:
- If you haven’t heard of FRIENDS: National Association for Young People who Stutter, then I would definitely learn a bit more about this amazing support organization. Meeting other teens who stutter, other parents who stutter, is a life-changing process. Look for One-Day Conferences near you or think about attending the Convention this summer. You can also consider group therapy! Inquire about that at your consultation.
- See a college Freshman named Grace step out of her comfort zone and do a TedTalk at her college called, “It’s Kinda Hard to Talk About.”
- StutterTalk: Inspiring Stories and Professional Wisdom is a book for maybe an older teen to fully enjoy, but its half personal stories written by adults reflecting on their journeys, and half professionals sharing their wisdom.
- Listen to a few Young Adults on the Stuttering Foundation Podcast share their journeys and lessons along the way, “Our Journeys: The Power of Support & Advice to Therapists.”
- Want a quick, ‘What is Stuttering?’ video, here’s one produced in Belgium that’s a great overview.
- Check out these books and videos for teens from Stuttering Foundation: A Fresh Look at Stuttering, and Do You Stutter: A Guide For Teens.
- National Stuttering Association has local teen (TwST) chapters in select areas, check out if there are any near you.
- Read articles about real people who have navigated the challenges of stuttering in areas you’re interested in. My personal favorite, and my forever Philadelphia Eagle, Darren Sproles.
- Watch the coolest slam poem about stuttering, “Did you Forget Your Name?”
- Stuttering is Cool book written largely in comic format for teens and young people who stutter.
There are a lot of amazing resources out there and I think learning more is the best first step in thinking about making changes and putting yourself out there.
Contact Sara for more info related to setting up stuttering therapy for your tween or teen who stutters and we can help as a guide in their journey at: Sara@youspeakstuttering.com.