Helping Students Who Stutter: Interprofessional Collaboration Between Speech-Language Pathologists and School Counselors

Added April 17, 2019

Students who stutter (SWS) may experience challenges in their social and emotional development that can lead to academic struggles in school. Students who stutter are perceived as being shyer, withdrawn, anxious, insecure, isolated and tense, and are frequent targets for bullying. Furthermore, recent research suggests that SWS are 60% more likely to be victimized as compared to their normally fluent peers who are only 22% likely to experience victimization. School counselors are in a unique position to help support SWS social, emotional, and academic functioning through a comprehensive school-counseling program.

Speech-language pathologists provide therapy services using a medical model of intervention. When treating SWS, SLPs often use cognitive and behavioral therapeutic strategies that focus on reducing overt stuttering behaviors by teaching altered forms of speech production.

School counselors can supplement the interventions provided by the SLP by identifying a SWS’s strengths, understanding their feelings about their experience of stuttering, fostering self-acceptance, promoting spontaneity in communication, and helping SWS overcome challenges faced when implementing speech language skills.

Together School counselors and speech-language pathologists are uniquely positioned to collaborate on school-based interventions to help students who stutter. These collaborations can include implementing a comprehensive school wide counseling program that addresses bullying. School counselors and SLPs can also coordinate to provide a variety of communication-specific strategies commonly utilized by SLPs. One example is using pseudo stutter (fake stutter). Pseudo stuttering is often used as a therapeutic tool for persons who stutter to increase acceptance and openness with stuttering which can increase self-confidence. When helping professionals pseudo stutter, clients have reported this experience often strengthens the therapeutic relationship, which can increase the client’s motivation, vulnerability, and resilience.

This article further reviews common elements of stuttering in children and provides suggestions for enhanced collaboration between school counselors and speech-language pathologists. Standards for both school counselors and SLPs emphasize interprofessional collaboration as key points; however, integrated services provided to children with speech and language disorders in the schools, especially for students who stutter, are rare. Interprofessional collaboration is considered a best practice strategy for most helping professions including school counseling and school-based speech-language pathology. To help guide collaborative treatment planning, school counselor can use the ASCA National Model’s Mindsets & Behaviors standards to begin addressing the SWS’s needs within each of the domains of interprofessional collaboration. Curricular action plans may include involving the SLP in educating students about stuttering in the core curriculum and small group activities. The school counselor and SLP can analyze the available data regarding the SWS’s academic progress and use the information to inform their intervention strategies.

School counselors and SLPs have numerous opportunities for successful collaboration when treating SWS. The benefits of interprofessional collaboration extend to both professions and enhances treatment for students. For students who stutter, overt speech disruptions, are only a component of stuttering; the emotional and social impact of stuttering are often harmful and lasting in a student’s life.


Chad M. Yates, PhD, Daniel Hudock, PhD, Randall Astramovich, PhD, Jehan Hill, PhD