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  • Writer's pictureKristin Chmela, M.A., CCC-SLP BCS-F

Reflections from SLP Trainee

Updated: Jan 12, 2021

Dear Kristin Chmela,

At Camp Shout Out, I unexpectedly learned more than how to appropriately treat children who stutter. I learned how to apply mindfulness is new ways related to communication, establish far-reaching and authentic means of warmth and welcoming in an environment, build confidence, and how hands-on experiences of building confidence transfers and generalizes to other life situations and behaviors. I also completed what I set out to do: learn how to apply the Eleven Basic Principles, made by Dr. Hugo Gregory (Professor Emeritus at Northwestern University), during therapy sessions with children who stutter. The highlight of Camp Shout Out were the days following our excursion to the neighboring campgrounds, where the campers and therapists engaged in adventures that challenged our confidence, balance, problem solving skills, communication, and exposure to new learning and experiences. We walked tight ropes and balance beams 35-feet in the air on a high ropes course, shot a target paper with BB guns, went wall-climbing, horseback riding, and zip-lining through a forest. Some chose to sit out of these activities and others checked them all off their list. With the supportive comments of everyone in their group, each camper and therapist engaged in each challenge by choice and pushed their personal limits. We learned that when we were starting the activities, we were scared. When they were happening, we were reminded to breathe. When they were finished, we were proud and accomplished. But more so, we learned that our fears that we had initially did not come true. In each subsequent speaking challenge, the campers were able to use their lessons in confidence and tenacity from these adventures to gather the courage to speak in front of others, use a loud voice, practice their breathing/speaking patterns, and reflect on how most of their fears didn't come true with speaking either. They still stuttered - but they used most of the five elements of effective communicators: being attentive, assertive, confident, effective, and proactive - which were underscored daily at camp. Specifically, one of my campers, who is heading into 8th grade, refused to accept speaking challenges of sharing a story in front of more than two people. After completing all five of the adventures at the neighboring campgrounds, this camper came back feeling more self-reliant and capable than before. When given a single prompt, this camper accepted the opportunity to present an oral story in front of 6 other peers and 6 adults - that's a far cry from no more than 2 people! Unbeknownst to her at the time, this served as her practice audience for the day when the parents came to pick up their campers. She stood up again, this time in front of more than double her previously large audience, to share her story with the parents as well. Her mom sat next to me, sitting taller than any other parent to support her child, holding back a gushing smile, and ignoring the tears that were running down her face so she could concentrate on her daughter's oral presentation. She had never seen her daughter show such features of a competent communicator (the five mentioned previously). After this experience, I understand the importance of looking beyond the narrow-road in therapy systems. I see that we must give our students opportunities to feel successful in small ways - or more attainable ways - first, in order for them to have the courage to keep working toward an even harder goal. I also understand the importance of Dr. Hugo Gregory's Eleven Basic Principles for fluency therapy. But what I also gained was knowledge and skills of how to implement differentiated therapy with the five features of a competent communicator. I have established a plan for how my course of treatment should look and how my IEP goals will evolve as the child grows more competent as a communicator. I learned more than anticipated - more than any value can be placed. With a full heart, thank you for allowing me to pursue this professional development and therapy opportunity. It was time well spent. With gratitude, Mrs. Miller

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