The course comprises 5 days of speech and language therapy sessions, outdoor activities, and group games and activities. Overarching all of these elements is the residential nature of the setting meaning the participants share sleeping accommodation, eat together and spend moments of downtime together.
The speech and language therapy element of the intervention was designed by the specialist team from the Stammering Support Centre, Leeds, with input from other members of the Yorkshire and Humber CEN. The aim of the intervention is to improve the participants’ confidence and reduce negative reactions towards stammering, and is also designed to complement other, more traditional modes of speech and language therapy.
The outdoor activities included are designed to contain elements of both psychological and physical challenge. These activities may lead to frustration at times but ultimately they aim to help participants develop innovative approaches to dealing with challenges through concrete experiences. It’s important to remember that these activities are designed to challenge the group members and therefore success is measured by the degree to which the individual has challenged themselves, rather than whether they completed the activity. Outdoor activities include the leap of faith (see picture), rock climbing, ghyll scrambling, mountain biking, and canoeing..
The aims of the course are:
Emphasis is placed on developing good communication skills; this is based on the fact that 80% of our communication is non-verbal. Skills such as good eye contact, listening skills, turn taking in conversation, facial expression and body language are practiced using role-play in a variety of situations. The course is structured to provide a hierarchy of challenges for developing confidence in speaking situations. These comprise of large and small group discussions, opportunities to express ideas and read aloud (activities which are often terrifying challenges for young people who stammer), role-plays and presentations.
Our approach aims to broaden the young person’s perspective on stammering by identifying and analysing both physical manifestations and the psychological/emotional factors involved. Identifying the problems and sharing with others helps the individual to decrease sensitivity to stammering, allowing him/her to focus on the positive aspects of their own communication.
Young people who stammer face many challenges. The course focuses on developing the individual’s ability to analyse situations, generate ideas to solve the problem and select the best solution for them. This is achieved through the group sessions, games and outdoor pursuit activities.
A step-by-step approach is used to enable the young people to identify unhelpful thoughts (the negative self talk that we use when we feel upset threatened, afraid or anxious). Young people are then assisted in analysing their junk thoughts and changing them to positive ones.
We use a variety of outcome measures including situation questionnaires, our own graded scales that cover both the physical behaviours of stammering and feelings/attitudes towards speaking, from the point of view of both the individual and the parents. These scales are completed at, before and after the course.
The course takes into account the impact stammering has on the developmental issues involved in adolescence. These include :
Adolescence is a time for increasing independence and developing individuality. Our course encourages each person to take responsibility for managing their stammer by giving choices and encouraging flexibility, so that each person learns to recognise what they need to do in order to make a difference to their speech and how they feel about it. The fact that the young people are away from home helps to encourage independence. The centre is an ideal venue for encouraging personal development due to the opportunities to take part in a wide variety of activities.
A young person who stammers can feel very isolated due to their difficulties in communicating. At a time when good friendships are vitally important, our course provides an opportunity to meet other with the same difficulty. Sharing thoughts and feelings is essential in developing a positive attitude to speaking and increasing confidence.
Young people are often concerned about exams, future employment and relationships. Our work on positive thinking helps each individual to recognise any negative thoughts in relation to the above and change them.
If stammering is not addressed at this vital time in a person’s life, there can be negative implications for self-esteem and confidence which can lead to a failure of the individual to meet their potential, both socially and in the working environment. Addressing the difficulties now will decrease the need for ongoing speech and language therapy in adult life.
Our specialist course is designed to encompass a holistic approach appropriate for young people. The course enables young people to:
Young people who stammer often underachieve in school by avoiding speaking situations. The course addresses these problems.
The intensive and residential nature of this course offers young people a rare opportunity to work on their communication skills in a supportive environment led by a skilled team of specialist therapists and ATE who are experienced in the running of residential courses and providing pastoral support.