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Learning the art of communication

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Posted: Wednesday, August 4, 2010 2:00 pm

Local speech-language pathologist Karen Ruehle-Kumar was chosen as one of 20 to attend The Stuttering Foundation of America’s Mid-Atlantic workshop concentrated on training professionals in the latest stuttering therapy techniques.

Ruehle-Kumar traveled to Philadelphia on July 12 for the five-day workshop, Treating Children and Adolescents who Stutter. The board certified fluency specialists taught practical ways to help children and adolescents learn how to help promote change in their communication. Speech-language pathologists receive board recognition in fluency disorders from the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA).

“Communication is something that is basic to our lives. It’s such a privilege and blessing to be able to help improve a child’s life,” Ruehle-Kumar said.

She earned her master’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin and has worked in public, private and charter schools, hospital and rehabilitation settings, and private practices since 1983.

Ten years ago Ruehle-Kumar became interested in children who stutter and began requesting informational DVDs and handbooks from The Stuttering Foundation of America – a non-profit organization that provides support to the estimated 3 million Americans who stutter – to further educate herself.

She currently works for Pediatric Speech and Language Specialists in Chandler, where she specializes in stuttering and childhood apraxia of speech.

According to a press release for the event, participants were selected from applicants around the world because they “already have professional experience and have demonstrated a special interest in children who stutter…They are also highly motivated,” said Joe Donaher, co-director of the workshop and Ph.D. of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Ruehle-Kumar said that many methods taught in the 29 hours of training can readily transfer to real-life patients and that she plans to implement things she learned into her everyday routine.

“I will to continue to use an individualized and multidimensional approach to stuttering therapy, but plan to add a problem-solving element to my therapy to help children and teens learn how to manage the challenges they face,” she said.

Ruehle-Kumar also plans on using the Williams Talking Model – a method that emphasizes that stuttering is not happening to the speaker but that the speaker is doing something to interrupt the flow of speech – when working with clients.

“This model helps take some of the mystery out of stuttering,” she said.

The effects of the workshop are lasting, and according to the press release, “past graduates of the workshop program have frequently created a ‘ripple effect’ back in their home communities.”

Ruehle-Kumar is no exception. She is currently developing a presentation for her colleagues to share her knowledge.


Erica Tiffany is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a senior at Arizona State University.

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