About the presenter: Peter Reitzes, MA, CCC-SLP, is an adult stutterer and an ASHA certified, speech-language pathologist working in an elementary school and in private practice in Brooklyn, New York. Mr. Reitzes is the author of 50 Great Activities for Children Who Stutter: Lessons, Insights, and Ideas for Therapy Success (PRO-ED), is co-editor (with Gregory Snyder) of the Journal of Stuttering Therapy, Advocacy and Research (www.JournalOfStuttering.com), is co-host of the Stutter Talk podcast, and is an adjunct professor at St. John's University and Touro University. Mr. Reitzes may be contacted at www.StutterNY.com.

You can post Questions/comments about the following paper to the author before October 22, 2007.

Stuttering Interviews

by Peter Reitzes
from New York, MN

1. Children who stutter are provided with opportunities to openly discuss their stuttering with teachers, school staff members, relatives, friends and others.
2. Children who stutter are provided opportunities to be their own advocates.
3. Children who stutter and interviewees are shown that stuttering need not be shameful and that talking about stuttering is not only allowed, but encouraged.

Stuttering Interview 1
Stuttering Interview 2
Homework (including Stuttering Interview 3 and Blank Homework form)

Directions: It is common for children who stutter to experience negative feelings and emotions in response to difficulties they experience communicating (Andrews & Cutler, 1974; DeNil & Brutten, 1991; Vanryckeghemm & Brutten, 1996, 1997). As a result of such negative feelings and experiences, Starkweather & Givens-Ackerman (1997) noted that children who stutter often feel "they are simply not very good as people" (p. 68).

One adult explained:

Stuttering is a deep feeling of not being able to survive because we cannot speak. As a kid, my whole body was affected, I saw my whole future crumble: that was not reality, but just a feeling that seemed a reality (Guerin, 2003). Negative experiences may impede both a child's communicative abilities and his or her therapeutic progress (Healey, Scott Trautman & Susca, 2004). When this occurs, clinicians will need to focus on the negative feelings that accompany stuttering to "ensure the effectiveness of treatment" (Murphy, Yaruss & Quesal, 2007, p. 122). This paper will focus on one activity, Stuttering Interviews (Reitzes, 2006), that is used to target the negative feelings and emotions that often impede both communication and therapeutic progress. Stuttering Interviews was adapted, with permission, from the "Stuttering Survey" exercises found in the Successful Stuttering Management Program (SSMP) For Adolescent and Adult Stutterers (Breitenfeldt & Lorenz, 2000).

Stuttering Interviews is an activity that enables a child to talk openly about stuttering with his or her teachers, relatives and others. Doing so helps each child become his or her own advocate while also demonstrating that stuttering is not shameful, is not a secret, and may be discussed openly and objectively.

Stuttering Interview 1
Begin by providing each student with a copy of Stuttering Interview 1 and explain:

Talking about stuttering can be hard, but it can also be fun and easy. Today we are going to begin using Stuttering Interviews to help us practice talking about stuttering. Interviews are when you ask people questions to find out what they know about a subject. For example, after a football game, reporters interview the players to find out what they think about the game. We are going to interview teachers, relatives, friends and other people to find out what they know about stuttering. These interviews will also help us educate people about stuttering and about what we do in speech class. And remember, you are the stuttering expert! Role-play this interview with students by taking turns playing the roles of both the teacher and the student. It is important for the clinician to help students be both comfortable and flexible within this assignment. For example, when the student reads you a question such as, "What do you think causes stuttering?" you may respond, "I really have no idea, can you tell me?" Students may become confused because you are treating the interview as a conversation, but it is common for people being interviewed to ask just such a question. By asking your students questions during role-playing, you will be preparing your students to treat these interviews as conversations about stuttering. Encourage students to answer questions asked of them and to take their time and not rush through interviews. Students new to speech class may answer the question by saying, "I stutter because I caught my stuttering from another child" while veteran students may respond, "There are probably many different causes of stuttering." Many children will not have experience talking openly about stuttering and will need your support and encouragement to do so.

The introductory paragraph at the top of each interview form is optional. Students may read the introductory paragraph to prospective interviewees or explain the purpose of the interview using their own words. If students are conducting a second interview with someone (as some students will want to do), let students know that they do not need to read the introductory paragraph again.

It is important that clinicians model behaviors and assignments they wish clients to use (Dell, 2000; Ramig & Bennett, 1995; Walton & Wallace, 1998) to demonstrate that the assignment is reasonable (Breitenfeldt & Lorenz, 2000). Arrange to interview someone about stuttering, such as a colleague at work, so that students may observe you complete the assignment. You may also ask students, "Who would you like to see me interview about stuttering?"

After students role-play Stuttering Interview 1 and observe you complete one or more interviews, ask the children who they would like to interview. Many students choose to interview their mothers or other familiar people for their first interview, and this may be assigned as homework. After the first interview is completed, ask students to choose a more challenging person to interview such as a principal, teacher or school staff member. Help students arrange a time to conduct the interview. You may wish to attend the first interview or first several interviews to help students take their time and to encourage open discussions about stuttering. For example, if a teacher says that she always found stuttering to be fascinating, you may whisper in the child's ear, "Ask your teacher what she finds interesting about stuttering." Students do not have to write down the answers to all of the questions that come up during conversation, but may do so if they wish. After students are comfortable conducting interviews, explain:

I want you to make a list of several people that you would like to interview about stuttering, such as teachers, family members, friends and neighbors. After you complete this list, you will approach the people you have chosen to schedule times for interviews. For example, if you choose your aunt, let your aunt know that you want to interview her about stuttering as a speech class assignment. If you have trouble setting up any interviews, ask me for help. In the schools, it is often possible to provide students with hall passes at appropriate times and ask them to seek out potential interviewees who are within the school. Students may either conduct the interview at that time or schedule an interview for a different time. A good time for students to conduct stuttering interviews is when a group of teachers are taking their preparatory periods (free periods). For example, in my school I may facilitate this activity with fifth grade students when the fifth grade teachers are taking their preparatory periods. In this scenario, I would typically stand in the fifth grade hallway to observe my students and offer guidance when needed. Make it clear to students that they should only approach teachers who are not in meetings or working with children. You may ask, "What should you do if the teacher looks busy?" to which students reply, "Come back another time." You may wish to provide students with clipboards to hold their interviews. This is practical but also displays a level of professionalism that many students will appreciate.

After students complete their interviews, discuss them in speech class. Some students are surprised when they realize that many, if not all, of their interviewees are interested in stuttering and discuss stuttering in a respectful manner. It is inspiring for students when their teachers and principals inform them how brave and smart they are for conducting interviews. One student was proud to report that his teacher said, "You could be a good speaker like Martin Luther King, Jr."

Some interviewees will not understand that the purpose of stuttering interviews is to talk openly about stuttering. On occasion, a teacher or other adult may ask a student to, "Leave the interview with me and I will fill it out and give it back." You may practice role-playing such a scenario with students so that they become accustomed to responding, "The point of doing interviews is to talk about stuttering. May we schedule a time where I can ask you the questions?"

Stuttering Interview 2
Stuttering Interview 2 contains a different set of questions for students to use. This provides students with variety and also enables them to interview the same person a second time. Students should have the opportunity to role-play Stuttering Interview 2 before it is assigned.

More Ideas
Interviewer's Attitudes. After students complete their interviews, you may ask them to turn the interview forms over and write a sentence or more on the back that describes the attitudes of the person interviewed. For example, you may say, "On the back of your interview, write several sentences describing how Ms. Velasquez feels about stuttering." This helps students to think about the completed interviews. One student was excited and relieved to write that his teachers did not feel his stuttering was caused by excessive "worrying."

Advertising Stuttering. Advertising stuttering simply means getting one's stuttering out in the open. Clinicians in the schools may help children advertise their stuttering in ways such as publishing stuttering interviews in the school newspaper and posting the interviews on a school bulletin board. It is important that you discuss these ideas with students and get their permission before proceeding. Students are often excited to help construct bulletin boards and to submit interviews to the student newspaper. By doing so, students take an active role in being open about their stuttering. You may also encourage your students to invite friends, classmates and siblings to speech class to be interviewed about stuttering.

Using Speech Tools. While the primary goal of Stuttering Interviews is to help students talk openly about stuttering, some students will also benefit from practicing speech tools during interviews. This enables students to use speaking strategies during practical situations. Help students to choose appropriate speaking strategies to use when giving stuttering interviews. For example, you may ask students, "What speech tool do you think would help you when conducting a stuttering interview?"

The homework assignments provided are examples of ways to support and expand this activity. To meet the individualized needs of your students, use the blank homework assignment form to write your own assignments. It is important that you review homework assignments with students before they take them home to ensure that students fully understand what is expected of them. Also, be sure to review and discuss all completed assignments with students. Each homework assignment contains a line for a parent signature. You may require that parents sign each homework assignment as a way to encourage family participation.

When assigning Stuttering Interviews for homework, remind students that the main purpose of these interviews is to talk openly about stuttering. Occasionally a student may return to speech class with an interview that was completed with an adult's handwriting. Students need to write their own answers (unless of course they are disabled or delayed in some manner which would prevent or impede such a task). If a child is unable to write his or her own answers, contact the family and explain that the family may certainly help the child write the answers, but the student still needs to ask the questions.

One of the homework assignments asks students to write a list of names of friends who they would like to invite to speech class to participate in stuttering interviews. Inviting friends to speech class is a great way for children to be open about stuttering, and for friends and classmates to learn about stuttering and speech therapy. Discuss the completed lists with students to ensure that only appropriate friends and classmates are invited to speech class. On occasion, a student may want to invite a friend or classmate to speech class who you feel may not be able to discuss stuttering in a productive, respectful or serious manner. In such situations you will need to use your best judgment on how to proceed. Once the lists have been completed, you may then approach teachers in your school to ask permission for the chosen children to attend speech class to participate in stuttering interviews.

One of the homework assignments asks students to list three things they want to share about stuttering with teachers or principals. Some students will want to share facts about stuttering learned in speech class while other students will choose to share more personal information. For example, one student may want a teacher to, "Please call on me in class as much as any other student" while another student may write, "Don't ever call on me in class." It is important to discuss and honor these completed assignments with students. Sometimes students will want to modify or change their answers after such a discussion. For example, after a discussion with his clinician and a friend from speech class, a student changed his response from, "Don't ever call on me in class" to "Please call on me when I raise my hand." Encourage students to share their completed assignments with their teachers and principals. For example, you may suggest that at the end of an interview students may say to a teacher, "I wrote down three things that I want to share with you about stuttering." Such a scenario should be role-played so that students become comfortable with the assignment.

Note.Stuttering Interview 3 does not have preprinted questions on it. It is included because one of the homework assignments asks students to use this form to write their own questions about stuttering.


Andrews, G., & Cutler J. (1974). Guilt, shame, and family socialization. Journal of Family Issues, 18, 99-123.

Breitenfeldt, D.H., & Lorenz, D. R. (2000) Successful stuttering management program (SSMP) For Adolescent and adult stutterers (2nd ed). Cheney, WA: Eastern Washington University.

Dell, C.W. (2000). Treating the school age stutterer: A guide for clinicians (2 ed.) (Publication No. 14). Memphis, TN: Stuttering Foundation of America.

DeNil, L. & Brutten, G.J. (1991). Speech-associated attitudes of stuttering and nonstuttering children, Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 34 (1991), 6066.

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Vanryckeghem, M. & Brutten, G.J. (1997). The speech-associated attitude of children who do and do not stutter and the differential effect of age, American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology 6, 6773.

Walton, P., & Wallace, M. (1998). Fun with fluency: Direct therapy with the young child. Bisbee, Arizona: Imaginart.

You can post Questions/comments about the above paper to the author before October 22, 2007.

August 20, 2007
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