About the presenter: Rita Thurman, CCC--BRS-FD M.S., degree in Communication Disorders from Utah State University, has worked in the schools and in clinical settings in Utah, Idaho, Illinois and North Carolina. She has been in private practice in Raleigh, North Carolina since 1985 focusing on the evaluation and treatment of children, teens and adults who stutter. Ms. Thurman has presented workshops on fluency disorders, is a National Stuttering Association Chapter leader, coordinates a Parent-Child Stuttering Information Group and sponsors an annual Friend's Workshop in North Carolina.

You can post Questions/comments about the following paper to the author before October 22, 2011.

Crime or No Crime

by Rita Thurman
from North Carolina, USA

Developing procedures to allow children who stutter to be an advocate for themselves is an important part of treatment. Children need a format to talk about their stuttering, better understand their feelings about stuttering and develop strategies to react to their listeners. Just as important, they need to have fun doing it! Adding the "fun" component allows the child to develop a positive attitude about communication.

As described by Murphy, Yaruss and Quesal (Journal of Fluency Disorders Volume 32, Issue 2, 2007, Pages 121-138 ) the therapy process must include a way for "desensitization to stuttering, cognitive restructuring, self-acceptance, (and) purposeful self-disclosure." The activity "Crime or No Crime" provides for these opportunities.

This is a group activity that I use for children ages 7-12 and was presented as a children's work shop at the 2011 NSA conference. It utilizes a mock trial format as a fun way to inform children about stuttering and enable them explore their feelings and reactions to their own stuttering. The children play the role of "judge", "accused", "attorney" and "jury". The "accused" (a younger child) is supported by an "attorney" (an older child and mentor, who helps him/her formulate his/her defense). The judge helps the jury (remaining children) deliver the verdict. After being given his/her "accusation", the accused and attorney explain why it is not a crime (e.g. stuttering during a class presentation) and why they should be found "not guilty". Participants are given the opportunity to play each role.

I have done the activity with as few as two other children; one functions as the judge and one the accused. The therapist can play the role of attorney and offer advice to advocate his/her position.

The children at NSA reacted positively to the activity. Although, their favorite part may have been slamming the gavel (available from: Amazon.com), receiving a strip of Crime Scene Tape (a necessity of any therapy room and also available from: Amazon.com) and getting finger printed (any stamp pad will work.)

My favorite quotes from the participates were: "Stuttering is not a crime, it's just another way of talking.", "Everyone gets nervous when you give a class presentation, sometimes I stutter more when I do a report in front of the class.", and my favorite: "This activity was the most fun that I had so far at the conference."