The new ‘Penguin’ app for children who stammer
Action for Stammering Children are supporting the new app Penguin, created by the lovely folks at BeneTalk. This new app is designed to help children who stammer develop into confident communicators and gives parents confidence to support their child. We asked Jaclyn Morton from the team at BeneTalk to tell us more about this new app and why it was developed:
I’m Jaclyn. I work independently as a Speech & Language Therapist specialising in stammering and I volunteer for STAMMA on the helpline and webchat services. In both these roles, my most frequent contact is with parents and carers of children who have just started stammering. They often express shock, distress, confusion but above all, ask me “what can I do to help?”.
I’m pleased to be able to offer the parents and carers that I (and my STAMMA colleagues) speak to some level of support. However, with long waiting lists for NHS services in many areas and often conflicting and confusing advice online there is a space where many parents are left alone, muddling their way through, trying to do their best.
There is something perhaps innate within parents, and indeed humans in general, where we want to fix our problems and make struggle go away.
When a child is stammering it’s a very natural reaction to want to lessen their stammer by asking them to adapt their talking in some way, to become more fluent.
This may help in the moment but it’s not altogether clear that it makes talking easier in the long term, and in some cases, approaching stammering in this way can make the situation worse.
It is this lack of support, along with parents wanting to know how best to help, that brought about the development of Penguin, a mobile app to support parents and carers of children who stammer.
Penguin has been developed by a group of people with varying levels of experience of stammering – people who stammer themselves; speech and language therapists; engineers and researchers. All of us share the same goal of wanting to ensure parents and carers receive help when they need it, not when their name reaches the top of a list. My biggest challenge as a Speech Therapist, writing the content for Penguin, was to try and be parent -led and curious, the way I would be in a therapy session, but in an app!
The app aims to provide parents and carers with the awareness of how important they are in the early stages of stammering, how much they can influence by being aware of their own feelings around stammering, and how modelling what they instinctively know can be helpful, instead of instructing their child to make changes to his or her talking.
Penguin gives parents a 10-day course, each day has a short video and some suggested activities that aim to help parents and carers make little changes to better support their little one.
We are thrilled that the app is being supported by Action for Stammering Children. It is also being recommended by STAMMA and many NHS trusts are integrating it into their pathways. Working together in this way helps more parents/carers to get help when they need it most.
By Jaclyn Morton