In The POWERR Game: Managing Stuttering by Gordon W. Blood, the "W" in POWERR stands for well being. Well Being is the title of Phase 3 of his speech therapy program. "The Well-Being component ... addresses the ways in which clients perceive their control over their lives. It offers a good time to discuss how stuttering fits into the general scheme of their lives." (p. 32) Taking a speech therapy concept such as this one and turning it into a fun, engaging activity for students is the challange being a speech language pathologist. :)
Today my students used a scale that I found at a yard sale. This scale has 2 dishes, which, when each contains the same amount of weight, come into horizontal balance. If one dish contains more weight, it drops that side of the scale lower than the other.
On one side of the scale I placed a small red plastic bowl. This bowl represented stress. We dropped marbles into the red bowl to represent different stressful situations. I dropped in 2 marbles to represent driving in rush hour traffic. Students dropped in marbles to represent homework, forgetfulness, illness, fatigue, public speaking, using the phone, and so on. Quickly, the scale became lopsided, just as life gets unbalanced when we are overwhelmed with stressful events. Next, we brainstormed activities to relieve stress: listening to music, taking a walk, talking with friends, taking slow deep breaths, catching up on sleep, etc. We did this as we dropped marbles into a small plastic white bowl on the other dish of the scale. Gradually, the scale became balanced again.
We know that stuttering is not caused by stress, but that it can be affected by stress. And, we are not completely helpless when this happens. We can behave in ways that restore a greater sense of balance. As a student learns which stressors are fluency disrupters for him, he can change his behavior to help prevent as well as bounce back from periods of stuttering relapse. This is empowerment. This is shifting the locus of control from outside oneself, to inside oneself. This is a life long journey requiring observation, experimentation, and the adoption of a lifestyle that supports greater fluency.
This activity can also be interpreted differently. If we assume that greater fluency is not the goal at a particular time for a particular student, then we can imagine avoidance behaviors would create stress. Putting off the phone call, choosing not to participate in classroom discussion, and switching words so as not to stutter on certain sounds could all be represented by marbles dropped into the red bowl. Antidotes to this kind of stress might be informing listeners about stuttering, enlisting teacher support in order to feel comfortable stuttering in class, or practicing voluntary stuttering on feared sounds. These latter behaviors would be marbles dropped onto the other side of the scale, bringing back a sense of personal control and balance to life.
Effective speech therapy leaves a lasting, positive impression. Sometimes, the "results" of a session are not realized right away. I've heard adults recovering from stuttering fondly remember lessons from childhood that did not sink in until young adulthood. I hope that when my students recall dropping marbles onto the scale, it will remind them that they "have the right to change," as Gordon Blood writes in Phase 3 of his program.
The POWERR Program can be purchased from the Stuttering Foundation, http://www.stutteringhelp.org/ , Publicaton No. 0250.