That's why I support your protest, even against speech therapy. I've heard researchers talk about the utter tragedy of the child who doesn't learn to curb stuttering. The tragedy is the child won't communicate like a "normal" person.
I know that's only one camp of stuttering therapy, but it's not as radical as its detractors might think. What about the original speech therapy work? Practice your R until it sounds like my R, make your lisp go away. Why? So you'll be more socially acceptable. Unless we ask the world's listeners to be more accepting of non-Rish Rs and lisps, we're saying the problem lies solely in the individual. That's the ableist rationale historically underlying speech therapy.
Even Charles Van Riper's deeply personal speech therapy techniques included learning to sound more like the status quo. His work was born of lifelong shame about his speech, which makes it wonderfully insider. But to isolate the stutterer in a clinic room to fix his problem puts all the responsibility on the stutterer. Where was the scrutiny of society for shaming Van Riper? Where was the clinic room that taught family, friends, teachers, and employers to not be annoyed or entertained by stuttering? A patient needs to fix their way of being, and everyone else can chill out and wait for the patient to come around? Ableist.
The field has progressed since then. Some speech therapists work in a way that holds patients as valuable and valued people as they are. But the legacy of the field's roots don't go away. So here are my own protests.
I am not a stutterer. Thanks to some traumatic brain injuries, I know a physical experience and sudden terror of being trapped in a block or repetition. I've never faced the insistence that I should be ashamed because my neurogenic stutter lasted a few months in 1999 and has come back only intermittently with subsequent hits to the head.
I have other impairments. Similarly to stutterers, folks with brain injury receive public praise when we bust our asses and get better in rehab (though level of ass-busting is not correlated to level of betterment; not that I can convince the public or most providers of that). Also, we're considered self-centered and missing the point if we refuse rehab.
I refused some rehab because it was aimed at my assimilation back into normalcy. Why speech therapists hold normalcy as an ultimate goal for people with impairments, I'll never understand. My rehab wasn't aimed at helping society flex their standards so I could coexist and be given opportunities despite my odd communication and behaviors. It was all me and my problem. So I dropped out.
I know nowadays some brain injury rehab focuses on community re-integration and training communication partners. But that's not what I was given. I was handed to a speech therapist who paid no attention to my emotional experience of being in her clinic room or what I actually wanted her assistance with. The clinician determined what she felt I was bad at and set to work fixing me. Literally screaming and sobbing did nothing to get her to pay attention to my rehab goals. I know because I read my chart notes after I left. She didn't document my protests, and she downplayed my impairments, even the ones she was trying to cure. Classic. Disabled people are unreliable reporters of their own needs simply because they are disabled. Best to just leave it to the experts.
Rewind to grad school. I was training to become an expert. I worked with a teenager who had been taught by a speech therapy student before me to say "Sorry, but sometimes I stutter" by way of introduction. That grad student had told me privately that she felt sorry for this client because of her speech. No wonder she trained the teen to apologize for her own presence and desire to communicate! Gross. In our time together, the teen and I worked on acceptance and pride, raising her awareness of speech production, some fluency shaping, and reflecting on maybe not apologizing. I kind of hated having to undo the prior speech therapy student's shaming. I wondered how often this would come up once I graduated and became an SLP.
So when I became a patient after I graduated and had to live on the other side of the clinician-patient relationship, I left the field. I cannot be in that dynamic with someone else. I cannot draw a paycheck from reinforcing the idea that “you communicate abnormally and should communicate more like I do so that you'll be a valuable person.” Despite the great work of some progressive researchers and clinicians, many are still more concerned with changing patients so that others are more comfortable around them than really uplifting people.
Anyone who truly values stutterers and people with brain injury must learn to temper their defensiveness when we step up and say no. To call speech therapy ableist is not an attack on individual speech therapists' value as people. Rather, we protest the insistence that only certain people must fix, cure, or correct an aspect of themselves in order to be appreciated as full members of society. In the relationship between client and clinician, the clinician has more power. Speech therapists, please don't be hurt when the person with less power wants to voice their reality and assert their humanity. After all, isn't that why people want to become speech therapists? I thought that was why I joined the field, but I could not make it work. So, I join the public protest in solidarity.