Role-Playing as a Therapy Technique to Help Stuttering

Did you know that a person’s stuttering, also known as stammering, can vary in different situations? A person may stutter in one setting, then speak with ease in another.

For example, many people who stutter report difficulty “getting their words out” in high-pressure situations. These might be ordering food at a restaurant, talking on the phone, making a presentation, leading a meeting, or speaking to an authority figure. 

But these same people may not stutter at all during a speech therapy session. This is likely because they’ve become comfortable with their speech therapist.

So how can we “carry over” what’s happening in speech therapy to everyday speaking situations?

Speech therapy goals for stuttering

In speech therapy, people who stutter learn techniques to achieve smoother, more fluent speech, as well as more confidence when speaking. One common speech therapy goal is to reduce “avoidance behaviors” associated with stuttering.

Avoidance behaviors are when a speaker expects that they’re going to  stutter, so they avoid a certain word, phrase, or situation in order to escape the experience of stuttering. A speech therapist can help you identify those avoidance behaviors and explore the deeper beliefs surrounding stuttering. This is important in helping people to speak freely and openly, without limitations. 

So how do we target these goals in a speech therapy session? One technique that works well for people who want to manage a stutter is to practice role-playing. 

How can role-playing help you manage a stutter? 

How does the role-playing technique for stuttering work? Role-playing involves using skits and dialogues to recreate life experiences in which you can use the speech techniques you’re learning in therapy. It’s a great way to practice and build confidence, all in the safe space of speech therapy. And it works for both children and adults who stutter.

Here are some examples of how role-playing can help you improve a stutter and speak more freely: 

Asking for what you need: Role-playing in speech therapy can help you advocate for yourself and your needs in an assertive, empowered way. Self-advocacy can also help to increase your confidence inside and outside the speech therapy session. 

Giving a mock presentation or interview: Presentations, meetings, and interviews can be intimidating for anyone! People who stutter may have an added layer of anxiety when they have to speak in front of a group. Doing a mock presentation or interview in a speech therapy session can help you increase your confidence in professional speaking. 

Talking with familiar or unfamiliar people: A familiar person may be a parent, child, family member, or friend. An unfamiliar listener may be a clerk, waitperson, or coworker you don’t know well. When role-playing conversations, the speech therapist can play the role of the listener and “act out” the scenario. Practicing these social situations in speech therapy gives you tools and techniques to use outside of the session. This makes it easier to manage your stutter and speak more openly in everyday life. 

6 ways to practice role-playing for stuttering at home 

Practicing role-playing at home is a fun–and effective–way to carry over the techniques learned in speech therapy.

Children who stutter can practice with a parent, caregiver, or sibling, who acts as the “listener” in the scenario. They can each participate in conversation, while the child practices their speech techniques. 

Adults who stutter can practice with a partner or friend. Or they can record a mock presentation or answers to interview questions and watch it back. 

Here are 6 social scenarios you can practice at home using your speech techniques for stuttering: 

1 Practice ordering food at a restaurant

You can even print out the menu from your favorite restaurant to use as you order! 

2 Practice introducing yourself

Have each family member go around and introduce themselves with a fun fact or two. 

3 Read an article out loud

Then talk about it with a family member or friend.

4 Practice giving a presentation in front of your family members

You can even make visuals or charts to go along with your presentation! 

5 Choose a subject you’re passionate about and speak about it for 5 to 10 minutes

If you were to give a TED Talk, what would your topic be? You can set a timer and simply allow your imagination and stream of consciousness to flow. 

6 Make a mock phone call

Pretend you’re calling the pharmacy to ask a question about your prescription, a restaurant to make reservations, or a friend to make plans. 

Role-playing is a functional way to carry over the techniques you’re learning in speech therapy to everyday life. You don’t need a lot of time or fancy materials to practice–just your imagination! 

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