Noala News

Dec '21 - Stuttering, selective mutism and the winner of our "Who is the best #SLT content?" contest

Posted on
December 6, 2021
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Welcome to our special edition focused on Stuttering! ✨

We're fortunate enough to welcome Katherine Preston, author of Out With It, and Stamma, the British Stammering Association, as special guests. By joining forces together, we aim to reduce the stigma still associated with stammering. We genuinely believe that diversity includes disfluency 🌎

We've also chatted with Anna Biavati-Smith, a highly specialist independent SLT and trainer, to learn more about Selective Mutism. We couldn't agree more with her that "everyone should be able to reach their communication potential" 🤩

Last, but not least, Katharine Unwin, Noala ambassador, shared with us her genuine journey as she's considering returning to the world of adult SLT after having taken care of her children over the past years ❤️

And as promised on our Instagram account, we're excited to announce the winner of our "Who is the best #SLT content?" knock out at the end of this email 🌟

Let's build the future of speech and language therapy together! 🙌

speech and language therapy stutteringstamma
Welcome to our special edition focused on Stuttering! ✨

Nov '21 Research Paper 🧐
As we've been focusing on stuttering, we stumble across "Comparing evaluations of social situations for adults who do and do not stutter", a research paper by Shelley B. Brundage, Katherine L. Winters, Karla Armendariz, Ruchi Sabat, Janet M. Beilby (full text available online here).

Participants completed the Fear of Negative Evaluation (FNE), the trait scale of the State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) and the Interpretation and Judgmental Questionnaire (IJQ). They then provided written responses to 20 social scenarios. Qualitative analyses were used to understand how members of each group interpreted the different social scenarios.
We were particularly interested in the following findings

  • Results suggested that adults who do and do not stutter with low and high FNE interpret
    social situations similarly
  • No group demonstrated a negative interpretation bias consistent with what is observed in adults with SAD
  • Somewhat surprisingly, the theme “stuttering” was mentioned infrequently by the adults who stutter

We would love to hear from you! 
➡️ Feel free to share your experience of working on social scenarios with patients who stutter with the Noala community on our forum

We're delighted to introduce you to our first guest Katherine Preston,
author of Out With It, writer, stutterer and speaker 🤩

Could you please tell us a bit more how you've discovered you had a stammer?

In my family lore my stutter was always caught up with the death of my grandma when I was seven. In truth, it started earlier, when I first started putting words together, but seven was when I started to become more aware of other people’s perceptions of me, the first time that my ‘strangeness’ was really apparent and remarked upon.

You spent a year traveling around America meeting hundreds of stutterers, speech therapists, and researchers. Which discovery surprised you the most?

How much I like being a person who stutters. I had secretly hoped that in interviewing other people who stuttered I might chance upon a cure. Instead I found so much more. I found that I liked other people who stuttered. I liked the way they spoke, I liked their grit, I liked their innate strength. I loved that I could sit across from a stranger, someone whose life seemed far removed from mine, and chat like old friends, a lifetime of shared experiences connecting us. Liking them so much, and feeling proud to be one of them, broke through the shame that I’d carried around my speech.

You've explored a lot the relationship between voices and identities. Would you say that the process of finding one's voice is intimately linked to the process of finding one's identity?

Of course! For most people our voices are a constant articulation of our identity. They convey everything from our origins and our education to our personality and mood. They are both fixed and changeable. Much of the difficulty of stuttering is the way it can jumble and betray the identity we want to project. When all your life people have told you to calm down, to take a deep breath, have looked away when you have spoken, or laughed at you, it is near impossible not to believe the falsehoods their reactions, intentional or otherwise, tell you. For me it was critical to change that narrative. For a long time I believed that my stutter was something that happened to me, something that interfered with my ‘real’ voice. Embracing my stutter meant embracing the awkwardness it sometimes brought to conversations and the vulnerability it forced. As my self-confidence grew I saw that other people’s reactions said more about their identity, then any reflection on who I was, or wanted to be.

What advice would you give to your younger self regarding your stammer?

Don’t listen to people who try to put you in a box. Make friends with other people who stutter. Speak up. Know that normal doesn’t exist, that everyone is different. Feel united in that.

Third Sector Awards: Brand development - Stamma, British Stammering  Association | Third Sector
The British Stammering Association

STAMMA, the British Stammering Association, is dedicated to creating a world where people who stammer are able to fulfil their potential and enjoy respect and consideration.

Do you know that between 50 to 70 million people around the world stammer? It has nothing to do with intelligence or articulacy.In this day and age, we believe that stammering shouldn't be viewed negatively and met with suggestions to 'fix it'. It should be embraced and acknowledged as simply the way someone speaks. Let’s change the conversation about stammering ✨

Here are a few tips form Stamma when having a discussion with something who stammers

  • Don’t assume that they’re nervous or need to take a breath
  • Don’t describe someone’s stammer as “really bad today”. It suggests that they’re failing in some way when all they’re doing is talking
  • The best thing to do for someone who stammers is to not mind that they stammer

Stamma recently launched a petition to put stammering in the spotlight. We have high conviction that diversity includes disfluency. If you want to hear and see people who stammer on TV & radio all year round, you can support this petition here 🖋

Please welcome Anna Biavati-Smith, our second guest this month
Anna is a a highly specialist independent SLT focusing on Selective Mutism 🌟

Anna Biavati-Smith, highly specialist independent SLT focusing on Selective Mutism

Could you please tell us a bit more about yourself and how you've decided to become a speech therapist?

I am a multilingual therapist with a passion for working and supporting children. I studied Educational Psychology first with the specific interest in Specific learning difficulties and then I realized how many children also had speech and language difficulties. I knew that I needed to learn more, so I decided to become an SLT. Going back to Uni in my late 20s was not easy, but it was worth it and I absolutely love everything I do.

You focus on helping children to overcome Selective Mutism. Could you please explain to us what SM is and why it matters?

Selective Mutism is the fear of talking. Children can communicate and speak freely at home, but they are scared to the point of freezing. Over the years I learned that SM is more than the fear of talking, it is about communicating in general. It is not just related to words, and in the most extreme cases, children/teens cannot point, laugh out loud, shake or nod their head, share toys, or look at someone’s eyes.

The word selective can make it sound like that the child is choosing not to speak, but selective is the place or people that can be anxiety-provoking for the child. Children with selective mutism are unable to speak around certain people or in certain settings, it is common that they are very chatty at home with family but silent at school. They may appear disengaged and disinterested, however, it is their fear that stops them from doing so. 

Would you have a funny / most memorable anecdote (link to your job as a Speech Therapist) to share with us?

I love playing games, as children express themselves when they are having fun and above all, they feel relaxed. I was playing a game called Gassy Cow, where you pump the cow's tail and from time to time it releases fake "pooh". I was playing it with a child that suffers from selective mutism and so spontaneously after a while, he said: "The cow is making the right noises but there is no smell, what kind of pooh is this?". That was a WIN, as the child was relaxed enough to talk!

What advice would you give to your younger self about starting as a speech therapist

Communication is more than talking, do not focus on how many words a child has but how they communicate. Involving the family is the most important aspect of being an SLT and the best success is to have a dynamic family approach, so the child is not the centre of attention, but everyone in the family participates in the learning. As young therapists, we focus mainly on the child, but understanding how the brain works and relating it to communication will help children realize that they are not the problem, but they are going to be the facilitators to help the words come out.
 If you're curious and want to learn more about Selective Mutism, you can visit Anna's website.

Get to know Noala's ambassadors ✨

This month we sat down with Katharine Unwin to chat about her journey as she's considering returning to the world of adult SLT after having taking care of her children over the past years

The background

When my son was a year old I went back to work, starting a new role in a different hospital. I loved the job - it was my dream job working as part of a multidisciplinary team on a neuro rehab ward at our local hospital. I loved the team, I loved the work and I had a brilliant supervisor. However, as anyone who has any contact with children will know, they get every cough, cold and sickness bug going when they start nursery. As a military spouse with a husband deployed it fell to me to take time off work to look after myson - time I had to take off as annual leave. Looking after an ill child is hardly regenerative or fun time off and I was running out of energy. I was also feeling hugely guilty either for not being with my sick child or for letting down my patients and colleagues at short notice. I felt like I was letting everyone down on a regular basis and couldn’t do a proper job in any of my roles. Nine months into the role, with the prospect of having Christmas on my own with a one-year-old because I had run out of leave, had a husband away and family far afield, I took the hugely difficult decision to hand in my notice. I cried but was also hugely relieved. 

Fast forward a few years and another baby, I tried my hand at working with a paediatric caseload. Again, I had a wonderful team and supervisor and I was working bank so could choose my hours freely around the childcare needs of young children. All was going well but then the pandemic hit. With my husband away again the homeschooling juggling act again fell to me. I was hugely grateful to be able to concentrate on home life and once again put my career on hold.

Current dilemmas 

Now my children are older, the youngest will be starting school next year and we all hope that homeschooling will be a thing of the past! I miss my speech and language therapy work and am very keen to continue in the profession. It has been a joy to be talking about SLT again with the development of Noala. I love keeping up to date with research and attending online forums where possible but can I work out a way of returning to the profession but with hours that fit around children? I am hugely fortunate that I have been able to be at home with my children and I have (mostly) loved being a stay at home mum. So much language development happening right there in front of you on a daily basis! But now I want to work out how I can return to a profession I love whilst also being present at school drop-offs/pick-ups and in the holidays. I am keen to return to the world of adult SLT but am I brave enough to work independently? I think many of us suffer from imposter syndrome, I know I certainly do. Can I get my skills back up to standard? What is the demand for adult SLTs in my area? How do I go about marketing myself, understanding the legal and tax implications, work out how private medical care works, ensuring I’m offering value for money and the best possible outcome for clients….? The list seems endless and I’m trying to work out where to start. At least if I do work it out and pluck up the courage to return, I will know that Noala is there to make it easier! 

🥁And as promised on our Instagram account, we're excited to announce the winner of our "Who is the best #SLT content?" ... 

💥 Colourful semantics! 💥

Register on our waiting list for an early access to our all-in-one platform, including a library of ready to use SLT materials ✨

Emilie Spire
CEO & Founder
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