Kids Who Stutter

 

Table of Contents

 

Why I Wrote this Booklet

An Overview of Stuttering

Ten Tips for Communicating with Someone that Stutters

The Emotional Effects of Stuttering on Children

Helping your Child Cope with Teasing

Seven Tips for Kids that Stutter

My Letter to Kids about Kids Who Stutter

A Stuttering Lawyer?

Book Review: Stuttering: A Life Bound Up in Words by Marty Jezer

Interview with Marty Jezer

 

Lots of Links:

Fun Stuff for Kids and Teens

Recommended Resources

Current Research and News Stories

Resources for Building a Child's Self-Esteem

 

 

Why I Wrote this Booklet

 

In February of 1914, my great grandmother, six months pregnant with twins, was hosting a wake in her living room.  Her beloved son, Sammy, had tragically died at the tender age of two.  The shock, grief and stress she was feeling caused her to go into premature labor.  She gave birth to my maternal grandmother Alice, who weighed in at a scrawny 15 ounces, and my great aunt Katherine, who weighed just over a pound.

 

The doctor attending the home birth informed my Nana that her daughters were born with no sucking reflex, and were too weak to survive.  Medical science hadn't yet invented the incubator.  The prognosis of her tiny daughters was indeed grim.  Not willing to bury two more children along with Sammy, my determined great grandmother wrapped her babies in cotton, and put them in a bread box near the wood burning stove to keep warm.  Patiently, she fed her struggling daughters her breast milk, using a tiny eye dropper.

 

Alice and Kitty survived, but they were afflicted with epilepsy, and they stuttered horribly.  In school they were teased mercilessly and ostracized, because no one understood their physical struggles or cared to show them any compassion.  Finally, at age 14, they dropped out of school and went to work full time.  Eventually those plucky girls grew into savvy, successful businesswomen and self-made millionaires.  But my grandmother was married three times, and my great aunt stayed in a life-long relationship that was horribly abusive.  I firmly believe that the emotional turmoil of their adult lives was a direct result of their painful and traumatic childhoods.  Their battered self-esteem as stuttering epileptics caused them to be battered women as adults.

 

In high school, I had two male friends that stuttered.  Recently I had the opportunity to become reacquainted with one of them, after not seeing or hearing from him in  27 years.  My friend never married, but like my great aunt and grandmother, he did grow into a super-achiever and a very successful adult.  And like my kin, he too had a life experience of emotional pain and ostracism from people who didn't understand his stuttering.

 

In the 89 years since my grandmother was born and sturggled to survive, mankind has walked on the moon, mapped the human genome, and has made huge strides in understanding and curing a variety of diseases.  But not much progress has been made in understanding stuttering, and curing the pain, isolation, and frustration it causes  those who live with it.

 

In my profound sadness, I determined to do my part in raising public awareness about this affliction, and how it profoundly affects those who struggle with it.

 

It is my deepest wish that your compassion increases along with your knowledge.

 

To people that stutter, and to those of you that love them, I dedicate this little booklet, with my undying respect and affection.

 

Irene Helen Zundel

December 2003

 

 

An Overview of Stuttering

 

What is stuttering?

Stuttering or stammering  is a speech disorder in which the normal flow of speech is disrupted.  Sounds, syllables or words are frequently repeated (li-li-like this),  or prolonged (lllllike this) . At times there may be abnormal stoppages (no sound) of sounds and syllables  Sometimes an individual who stutters has difficulties in beginning a word.  Stuttering may also be accompanied by physical tics such as rapid eye blinks, tremors of the lips and/or jaw or other movements in the face or upper body that occur as the person is struggling to gain control over their speech. Some situations such as speaking before a group or talking on the telephone, may make stuttering more severe. Singing or speaking alone, often improves fluency.

Who stutters?

It is estimated that over three million Americans stutter. It is a problem that affects all ages, but is most common in children between the ages of two and six, who are just beginning to develop speech and language skills. Boys are three to four times more likely to stutter.  Most children outgrow their stuttering.  About one percent of adults stutter.

What causes stuttering?

The causes of the various kinds of stuttering are unknown at this time, but many scientists suspect that stuttering may be an inherited trait.  The most common form of stuttering is thought to be developmental in origin.  It occurs when small children who are learning to speak can not fluently express what they want to  Stuttering occurs while the child is searching for the correct word to say.  This kind of stuttering is generally outgrown. Some stuttering is neurogenic, meaning it is caused by signal problems between the brain and the muscles and nerves used in speaking. Neurogenic stuttering can occur after a stroke or other kind of brain injury. A third kind of stuttering is classified as psychogenic, meaning originating in the mind or mental activity of the brain, such as thought and reasoning. A small minority of people who stutter suffer from this type.  It is usually found in people with mental illness, or who have suffered severe mental stress or anguish.

How is stuttering diagnosed?

Stuttering is generally diagnosed by a speech-language pathologist, a professional who is trained to test and treat individuals with voice, speech and language disorders.. The diagnosis is usually based on the history of the disorder (when did the problem start, and under what circumstances did it occur?) and a complete evaluation of the speech and language abilities of the person that stutters. To locate a stuttering specialist in your area, visit this link:

http://www.stutteringspecialists.org/specialists_list.html.

When should I take my child to a professional for an evaluation?

Here are some warning indicators that your child may be developing a stutter:

·                Repetition of  a sound in a word five or more times (b-b-b-b-b-b-bat)

·                Insertion of the "uh" sound in a word (buh-buh-buh-buh-bat)

·                Prolongation of sounds (shhhhhhhhare)

·                Self-consciousness, tension, irritation, frustration, or embarrassment when trying to talk

·                Physical signs of struggle when speaking, such as facial tics, upper body movements, rapid blinking, or foot stomping

·                Difficulty in speaking for three months or more

 

Source: Look Who's Talking:How to Enhance your Child's Language Development Starting at Birth

by Speech-Language Pathologist Laura Dyer, Meadowbrrok Press, 2004

 

Can stuttering be cured?  How is it treated?

There are many therapies available that may improve stuttering, but at the present time there is no cure.  In treating cases of developmental stuttering, therapy generally involves helping the parents to restructure the child's speaking environment to reduce episodes of stuttering. Suggestions often include providing a relaxed speaking environment with few distractions, practicing attentive listening, and refraining from being critical about the child's disfluencies.  For other types of stuttering, medication may be prescribed, or electronic devices may be used to improve fluency.  Some therapies focus on relearning how to speak, or in unlearning faulty ways of speaking.  To find the best course of action, it is best to consult with a competent speech and language pathologist.

 

Sources : http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/voice/stutter.asp  

and http://www.stutteringhelp.org/br_htr.htm

Speech-Language Pathologist and author Laura Dyer http://littlelanguage.com/

 

Ten Tips for Communicating with Someone Who Stutters

·                Resist the temptation to finish sentences or supply missing words.

·                Don't say "Relax," "Slow down" or "Take a breath."  Such coaching can be seen as patronizing to a person that stutters---and such advice doesn't really work.

·                Try not to look embarrassed.  Maintain eye contact during the conversation.

·                Be patient and allow the person to finish speaking.

·                Use a moderate pace when you are speaking, and allow the conversation to flow at a natural and relaxed rate.

·                Realize that people who stutter often have difficulty in speaking on the telephone. Saying hello might take them a while.  Be patient when answering the phone.

·                Don't be afraid to say, "I'm sorry, I didn't understand what you said."  Most stutterers don't mind repeating themselves and appreciate that you were honest.  It communicates the message you are interested in knowing what they said, instead of pretending you understood or are just guessing.

·                Use the term "person that stutters" rather than "stutterer."  Stuttering is something people do, it is not who they are. Calling someone a stutterer is to refer to them in terms of their disability, and this is insensitive. All human beings are much more than their differences and difficulties!

·                In family or group situations, be sure everyone takes turns listening and speaking.  People that stutter find it easier to communicate without the distraction of competing conversations.

·                Ask fewer questions.  It is easier for someone who stutters to communicate if there are fewer interruptions.  Fluency often improves when the speaker can express their own thoughts in a flowing manner.  Simply acknowledge that you are listening by making comments throughout the conversation, and let it progress at a normal pace.

 

The Emotional Effects of Stuttering on Children

Having a stutter can be a devastating problem for a young child or a teen. Simple tasks such as saying one's name, answering the telephone, asking for directions, or ordering a meal can be hugely frustrating or embarrassing.  Making friends and socializing can be even more awkward and painful. Statistics show 35% of school-aged kids report they have been teased or bullied at some time. With children that stutter, that statistic rises to a whopping 82%!

Kids derive their self-esteem from their families, important authority figures and their peer group.  As they get older, the influence of their peer group increases, along with their need for social acceptance.  Kids that struggle with stuttering are often ridiculed, marginalized and/or ostracized resulting in low self-esteem, lack of confidence, and even depression.  Some kids that stutter retreat into a shell, and become silent and sullen.  School work suffers, relationships fall apart, and the world becomes a place of pain, loneliness, and isolation.  Clearly, stuttering isn't just a physical affliction, it is a social one as well.

The best thing parents can do for a child that stutters is to make sure they have a strong stuttering identity.  That means:

·                having an attitude of acceptance, not shame about the stuttering

·                reinforcing that a child that stutters is not inferior

·                focusing on the child's skills and potential for functioning and developing socially and

·                emphasizing that a child's dreams, desires, and talents should determine the focus of their future, not their stuttering.

Children that stutter are normal in every other way.  It is detrimental to their spirits to make them pretend they don't stutter, or spend their lives struggling to hide the fact that they do.  Every human being has a desire for self-expression and social interaction.  The ability to communicate gives us a sense of self-worth and belonging.  Children who stutter should be encouraged to talk, and never shamed or silenced!

If a child is taught to accept their stutter, and to communicate freely in spite of it, they learn to handle their disfluencies.  If they are made to feel guilt, shame or embarrassment, the struggle to hide their stuttering or to communicate flawlessly actually creates tension and makes matters worse! 

Parents, model love and unconditional acceptance towards your child that stutters.  Get them competent therapy.  Involve them, and yourselves, in stuttering organizations where you can find solace and encouragement.  Work to develop confidence in your child, and a good sense of self-esteem.

Life for a person that stutters can be difficult sometimes.  But with the proper help and encouragement, it can also be happy and rewarding.  Don't despair, don't give up!

 

Helping your Child Cope with Teasing

Teasing and bullying are an all too common part of childhood. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, it is the biggest school problem for kids ages 8-15, surpassing even alcohol, drugs, racism, and pre-marital sex.

Having to endure these hurtful behaviors can make children anxious and fearful, and interfere with learning and socialization. If ignored, prolonged victimization can leave a child psychologically scarred.

What exactly is teasing and bullying? How can children cope if they are being victimized?

Teasing is:
Using name calling, put-downs, ridicule and annoying actions to the degree that the person being teased feels sad, angry, upset, or helpless. Tormenting and harassing are a hostile form of teasing, and may later escalate to bullying.

Bullying is frequent, intentional and prolonged verbal taunting, name-calling, threats, stealing, and acts of physical aggression.

Children are generally teased in ten areas:

·       appearance

·       behavior

·       family circumstances

·       feelings

·       friends

·       identity (race, religion, culture or gender)

·       names

·       opinions

·       physical and mental abilities

·       possessions

Here are ten strategies you can teach your child that really help:

Self-talk
Don’t react with anger or tears. Mentally assure yourself you can handle it. Recall something good or special about yourself, or an accomplishment that you feel proud of. Remember that your opinion of yourself is what is important, not the opinion of the teaser.

Ignoring it
Make no eye contact or verbal response. Act as though the teaser is invisible. If possible, walk away.

Sending an "I" message
Make eye contact, speak clearly and politely. Say "I don’t like when you call me four-eyes and make fun of my glasses. Please stop it." (This works best in situations when an adult is present and can lend support. Using this strategy on the playground may cause more teasing.)

Visualizing
Create a mental picture that the words are "bouncing off" you without causing any harm, or that you are protected by an invisible shield. See the hurtful comments as disappearing into thin air, or create any other image that helps you feel unaffected by the teasing.

Reframing the comment
Treat the remark as something positive. Say, "Thanks for noticing my new glasses." Or "Thanks for your opinion."

Agreeing
Admit that what they are saying is right, in a manner that shows you are unaffected. "You’re right. I don’t see that well. But the glasses really do help."

Saying "So?"
It sends the message of "so what?" or "who cares?" Acting like what a teaser says just doesn’t matter and that it doesn’t disturb you often causes the teasing to stop. It is no fun for the teaser if they don’t get a reaction to their efforts.

Responding with a compliment
"I wish I could see as well as you."

Using humor
Laughing or smiling takes the sting out of the mean comments.

Asking for help
Tell a parent, caregiver, or teacher your problem. Often times they can get the teasing to stop by talking to the bully about their behavior.

For more information, visit this website:
http://www.easingtheteasing.com

To learn about Easing the Teasing workshops for parents and teachers, write or e mail:
info@easingtheteasing.com

Judy S. Freedman
P.O. Box 471
Glencoe, IL 60022

 

Seven Tips for Kids that Stutter

·                Remember, it's not your fault that you stutter.  Don't feel badly that you do it.

·                Don't stop talking!  Like every other person, you are valuable and have interesting things to say.

·                Don't work so hard at talking.  Try and let the words just flow.  Stop and go when you need to.

·                Live your dreams!  Stuttering doesn't have to hold you back.  Lots of people that stutter have become famous and have done great things.

·                Stay positive. Remember that your mental attitude gives you the mental altitude you need to soar in life!

·                Don't let people who tease you get you down.  Just think to yourself, "Sometimes I stutter, but that's okay.  I'm a wonderful me, in every way!"

·                Get plugged in.  Connect with other people who stutter.  Other kids that stutter can help and encourage you, and you can do the same for them.

 

My Letter to Kids about Kids Who Stutter

Dear Friends,

My name is Irene.  I don't stutter, but my grandmother and her twin sister did.  And so did two of my friends in high school.  Knowing and loving people that stutter has taught me a lot of good things.  Here are just a few of them:

People that stutter are just like you and me.  Stuttering is no big deal.  It is just something people do sometimes.  Some kids are clumsy and trip over their own feet.  Some kids are forgetful or "spacey."  We all have our little quirks, and they really don't matter.

Some kids are mean and tease and bully people that stutter.  That is a really awful thing to do.  Teasing makes people  feel really bad inside.  But people that stutter aren't bad or inferior people.  They are just like you and me.  They can be funny, kind hearted, talented, good athletes, loyal friends, and a million other nice things.  If you know someone who stutters, don't just see their stuttering, which makes them seem different than you.  Look for all the ways that they are like you.  See what you have in common with them.  If you are a kid that stutters, don't form your opinion about yourself based on the bad behavior of ignorant people who tease you.  Remember all of your good qualities, and feel proud of yourself!

Stuttering can make life hard for a person.  Having a simple converstaion can be difficult or frustrating or even embarrassing for a person that stutters.  Life is also hard for people in wheelchairs, elderly people that walk with a cane, or for people that are blind.  Did you ever stop and wonder what it would feel like if you had to struggle every day like some people do?  If you stuttered, or were blind, or could barely walk, I bet you would want people to be patient with you, and even kind or helpful sometimes. You would know that you couldn't help having the problem that you struggle with, and that you are doing the best you can.  So, the next time you hear someone stutter, remember:  They are doing the best they can. They can't help that they are struggling to speak. Just be patient and listen!

People that stutter don't always speak well, but so what?  Do you always hit a home run in baseball?  Are your homework papers always perfect?  We all have things that we do well, and things we aren't very good at.  And we all have days when we don't do very well at things we usually are good at. Life can be sort of up and down sometimes!  Perfection isn't possible, and it isn't even important.  People just need to try their best.  And you need to respect others for doing the best they can.  Don't criticize others, cheer them on!  They'll do the same for you too.

I dearly love and respect my family and friends who stutter.  They are wonderful people who have made my life rich, happy and interesting!

Do you know someone who stutters?  Be their friend.  Do you struggle with stuttering?  Be a friend to others. And don't worry.  Things will be just fine!

Warmest wishes,

Irene Helen Zundel

 

A Stuttering Lawyer?

The following article is written by my friend from high school, David Steiner.  Despite having a severe stutter, David actually taught English for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa, earned several college degrees, and went on to become a lawyer.  That is an awful lot for anyone to accomplish!  But I am especially proud of my friend because he did all of that on his own.  You see, when David was a kid, there weren't great organizations like Friends and Stutter Buddies to help and encourage kids and teens. Employers didn't care about being sensitive to people's struggles. It was darn hard to get a chance to prove oneself in the job world.  Despite all that, David persisted and succeeded.  He learned to network with other people that stutter.  He  greatly improved his speaking skills, and now he actually enjoys giving speeches in front of big crowds of people!  True, life can sometimes be hard for a person that stutters.  But stuttering doesn't have to hold you back or ruin your life.  Like David, you too can be a self-actualized person that stutters.  I hope you are encouraged by his story!

A LAWYER'S TALE

by David M. Steiner

Last May I addressed a class on stuttering at Hunter College in New York City taught by Dorothy Ross, Ph.D. After speaking for about 25 minutes, I threw open the session to Q&A. One of the student SLP's (Speech-Language Pathologist) asked why in the world did I choose the law as my profession if I stutter. To truly answer her question would have taken at least another 25 minutes. One of the skills we learn in Toastmasters, however, is how to make a long story short. In this case, very short. I said that all of us who have chosen to do anything in our lives, and that is all of us, did it for exactly the same reason: It seemed like a good idea at the time. Fortunately, in my case, a career in the law has turned out to be richly rewarding.

For the past five years I have held the title of Assistant Corporation Counsel in the New York City Law Department, where I was recently promoted to Associate Counsel. The Law Department, also known as the Office of the Corporation Counsel, is New York City's office of trial attorneys. We defend the City when it is sued, and argue for the City when it sues others. Of course, we cannot offer the big salaries that private firms pay, but other incentives exist. Our lawyers frequently win public interest awards from bar associations, and the work is always interesting. We recruit from law schools and public interest job fairs.

I, however, did not come to the Law Department in the usual way, but via a circuitous route. My college career, though fun, lacked direction. While an undergraduate at Columbia University in New York City, I could not decide upon a major until my junior year, when I decided that I had a knack for Philosophy. As I saw graduation approaching, I had no idea what to do with myself. I decided to apply for Naval Officer Candidate School, to which I was initially accepted. On the day that I was to be sworn in, however, I was told to fill out a set of forms, one of which asked if I had ever had any kind of therapy. I said that I had had speech therapy, at which point my swearing in was postponed and my application ultimately rejected. The Department of the Navy later wrote me saying that there was no waiver for stuttering.

I ended up applying to the Peace Corps and, having learned my lesson, never mentioned my stutter during the application process. The Peace Corps assigned me to teach English in the West African country of Niger for two years. I then returned home and entered a masters program at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Unfortunately, my speech had degenerated significantly during my Peace Corps years, and my job interviews while I was at Fletcher went poorly. My inability to find a job was my primary motivation in going to Cornell Law School.

Initially, law school was a scary experience, to which I eventually habituated myself. When it came time to look for a job again, however, I had no more luck. I stuttered badly in my interviews and found myself jobless after graduation. I returned to another masters program at the Columbia School of International and Public Affairs, which I had actually started years earlier. My interviews there went no better and the job placement office banned me from further interviewing, telling me that I was hurting the school's reputation.

I never gave up, however, and eventually landed a volunteer job in the chambers of a federal judge in New York City, John Walker, cousin of George Bush. With that under my belt, I got a job offer from Judge Jane Restani on the U.S. Court of International Trade. During the interview, she asked me if I stuttered, my unconditional affirmative answer apparently impressed her. I then got a job with Judge Reynaldo Garza on the Federal Court of Appeals.

My work with the federal judiciary was followed by a period of joblessness during which I got a masters in tax law at New York University in order to get more interviews. Once again, I graduated jobless but eventually I got employment at a small firm through a friend from the Fletcher School, and then another friend got me a job at the New York City Law Department.

During my job hunting ordeal, I received speech therapy and became very involved with Toastmasters and am now president of my chapter. The Law Department has placed great faith in my ability to try cases and my speech has greatly improved. Perhaps the most important factor in my coming to terms with stuttering is my self-actualization as a stutterer. Joining the stuttering lists, going to NSA (National Stuttering Association) and Speakeasy conventions, and recently going to the Third World Conference of the International Fluency Association have all helped to embrace a condition from which I used to run. While I am not one of those who claim to love their stutter, I fully acknowledge its presence. As those in the NSA who know me can attest, I now love giving speeches and relish any opportunity to reach a podium. Facing one's problems head on is a liberating experience. When things go wrong, do not despair, the only thing regrettable about mistakes is the failure to learn from them. Remember, good judgment comes from bad experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.

 

Book Review:

Stuttering: A Life Bound Up in Words

by Marty Jezer

 

Stuttering: A Life Bound Up in Words

Marty Jezer

Copyright 1997

Small Pond Press

 

 

This book is best described as poignant, real, and hugely courageous!

 

I was profoundly moved as I followed the personal odyssey of Marty Jezer, a man who struggles with a life-long severe stutter, and the impact that it has on his life, psyche, and human spirit. 

 

Born with a garrulous nature, a love for comedy, and a yearning to tell jokes, Marty fancied himself a future stand up comic.  But those hopes were dashed by the reality of his "having a handicap in his mouth."

 

As Marty so eloquently points out throughout his book, stuttering is more than a speech disorder.  It is a blow to the psyche, and an impediment to the fulfillment of the basic human need to communicate and to connect with others. 

 

Rather than offering a trite paraphrase, I'll let the author speak to you in his own, beautifully articulate words:

 

"People react to stuttered speech differently than they do to fluent speech.  They fidget, they cover their eyes, they interrupt, they say the word they think you are trying to say, they give advice, they make faces, they mimic, they laugh, they look away, they walk away---and the wound cuts deeper.  For the child that stutters, and for the adult whose stuttering has become chronic, speech is not a medium for communication but a recording of humiliation, a confirmation of ineptitude, an indication of abnormality, a violation of what everyone else in the world considers fundamentally human."

 

With a refreshing and sometimes startling honesty, Mr. Jezer chronicles his life as a person with a severe stutter.  He graciously gives you a front row seat, and lets you watch his childhood humiliations, the unraveling of romantic relationships, his angst in being a parent, and even his blackest moments as he fights to regain the will to live.

As this spell-binding saga unfolds, he also chronicles his quest for a cure---the numerous forms of speech therapy, psychological counseling, self-help groups, and even experimental drug therapy--and his arrival at a final destination of self-acceptance and self-actualization.

 

Despite the complexity of the phenomenon of stuttering and it's various treatments, Mr. Jezer manages to keep the the technical aspects light, informative and understandable.  And in spite of the huge suffering a person that stutters endures, he avoids being maudlin.  This book is amazingly balanced in its presentation of what stuttering is and how people that live with it, struggle to survive in the real world.

 

Are you a person who stutters?  Read this book.  You will keenly identify with the author, admire his pluck and cheer at all his wonderful triumphs.

 

Are you a fluent person that knows someone that stutters?  Read this book.  It will help you slip into the skin, the mind, and the heart of your loved one, and you will

learn so much!

 

To write the author, and to order a copy of Stuttering: A Life Bound Up in Words contact:

 

Small Pond Press

22 Prospect Street

Brattleboro, VT  05301

(802) 254-9595

 

http://www.smallpondpress.com

info@smallpondpress.com

 

INTERVIEW WITH MARTY JEZER

 

Stuttering: A Life Bound Up in Words

Marty Jezer

Small Pond Press, c 1997

 

Small Pond Press

22 Prospect Street

Brattleboro, VT 05301

(802) 254-9595

http://www.smallpondpress.com

 

 1. As a child growing up, you identified yourself as a "stutterer", which had a negative impact on your self-esteem. For example, you were popular, had many friends and were a good athlete. Yet, if you had a bad day in baseball and struck out, you would think and feel "I struck out because I am a stutterer and a loser." Later in life you learned to think of yourself as "a person that stutters." This is more than a matter of semantics.

Could you please explain the difference between the two terms, and tell my readers what impact making that distinction had on your self-image?

 

On the one hand, young people need to gain strength and awareness to understand "sticks and stones..." More important than what others think of you is what you think of yourself. I was able to ward off the insults of others when they made fun of my stuttering. But I also knew there was some truth in what they said. Stuttering was not normal speech. I felt hurt and shame. And I carried this hurt deep within me. Learning to call myself "a person who stutters" rather than a "stutterer" can be dismissed as playing on semantics. But it is a useful lesson, something to keep as part of one's self-awareness and understanding. Yes, I might be someone who stutters but that is not the sum total of who I am. I am so many other things as well. I've got so many positive attributes: Good student, friend, athlete, talented, etc. etc. Everyone can make a list of his or her own. Once this is understood, has become part of one's consciousness, the distinction between "stutterer" and "person who stutters" becomes less important. I know who I am. Being called "a stutterer" doesn't damage the identity and esteem I've created for myself, as something more that the disfluent sounds that come out of my mouth.

 

 2. A very poignant part of your book, for me, was when you described your fear that your daughter Katherine was developing a stutter. You were horrified to think that you had passed your affliction on to her. Yet, when you were confronted with her apparent disfluencies, you had the emotional strength and presence of mind to react in a positive manner.

Could you please describe to parents how you responded to your daughter, and why it is important to try to keep a "cool head?"

 

A lot of us have come to accept our stuttering. We no longer feel shame and no longer think we have to keep silent lest others see us stutter. But still, most of us fear having a child who also stutters. This was my great concern when I had my child. I was worried she would stutter and was apprehensive waiting for her first words.

It's not true, as Dr. Wendell Johnson said and, though his influence, many pediatricians think, that stuttering is caused by the way parents react to normal developmental disfluency. But it is certain that the reactions of parents and other adults can make a child's stuttering better or worse. Because of my participation in stuttering self-help groups, as well as my reading on the subject, I knew that the best way for an adult to respond to their child's disfluency is with patience and love, and to not make an issue of it or in any way, verbally or by facial impression, indicate that he or she might have a problem or that there is something wrong with the way he or she is speaking.

One day when my daughter Katie was still learning to speak she started repeating her words. It was clear indication of stuttering. My heart sank, but because of my knowledge, I remained calm, didn't take notice of her speech. I also started speaking slower in response. I was totally devastated, thinking that I had passed on my stuttering to her. But she was lucky, as was I. This incident passed. She never stuttered again, and, in fact, is quite a talker -- as a high school student she even had her own disc jockey show on our local community radio station.

The important thing with a child who stutters is not treat it as something shameful or bad; or something they should feel bad about. If the symptoms continue, have them evaluated by a speech pathologist trained to work with stuttering. (Most SLPs have no experienced in this specialized field). But in the home, the way to help is to monitor your own speech. Slow up, don't interrupt, let them say what they are going to say, don't draw attention to their disfluency either verbally or, more important, with facial expressions. It's easier to deal with the physical manifestations of stuttering. It's much more complicated having to deal with the psychological impact of stuttering, the feelings of shame and humiliation.

The feeling of shame, unlike the reality of the disfluent speech, is a learned behavior, a result of the child perceiving how the world reacts to his or her disfluent speech. A patient and loving response can minimize the psychological aspect of a child's stuttering problem.

 

 3. You spent a large part of your life in denial about the impact stuttering had on you and your life. Sometimes you were silent, and participated in social events hanging on the periphery. Other times you spent huge amounts of time and energy avoiding situations where other would likely discover that you stutter. For example, you would spend days studying a girl's schedule and making an elaborate plan to meet her somewhere "accidentally" so you could ask her for a date. Calling her on the phone was out of the question, because you almost always stutter on the phone. Dialing her number was intimidating to you, and produced a lot of anxiety and fear.

What was it like for you emotionally to live like that?

 

Avoidance behaviors, finding ways to be in the world without speaking, is one of the most debilitating aspects of stuttering. Events and activities that fluent people take for granted are exhausting challenges for many of us who stutter. I wasted so much time worrying and plotting, obsessing, really, on things like having to make a telephone call. Life was a verbal obstacle course and the barriers often seemed insurmountable.

 

When/how did you get from a place of denial to one of acceptance?

 

Very gradually (Rome wasn't built in a day). I did it by observing how others did it. But people have to find their own way. Some get it out of books, gurus, motivational speakers. I have always had my eye on the way people I respect live their lives. I met stutterers who were not ashamed of their stuttering and tried to 1) emulate them and 2) see their accomplishments as my challenge. In the self-help movement there are a lot of people who have come to accept themselves and their stuttering. I kept my eye on them and learned.

 

What difference has developing a self-accepting attitude made in your life?

 

A total difference. I no longer agonize or even think much of my stuttering. I have to speak, I do so, without any stressful anticipation. What a relief that is. To be honest, there are still public speaking situations where the old stress comes out. E.g., being interviewed on the radio. But that doesn't happen often. In everyday situations, my speech is not an issue.

 

4. I really want to understand children who stutter. Please tell me:

 

In a general way, what was daily life like for you as a young child who had a severe stutter?

 

On the one hand life was good. I had friends and did well in school. But there was always an underlying fear that I would be called upon in class or meet and have to speak to someone who didn't know I stuttered. That fear was a constant.

 

How did stuttering make you think and feel about yourself?

 

I had self-esteem and a strong self-identity but it was easily compromised. As long as I could remain in areas where speaking didn't matter (playing sports, hanging out with friends in situations where they carried the conversation, in class where I wasn't expecting to be called on) I felt wonderful. As soon as I was put in a situation where speech mattered, my esteem plummeted. Instantly, then I hated myself, hated my speech and hated having to be in social or challenging situations.

 

What behaviors and attitudes did you adopt to help you cope with the pain and frustration of having a severe stutter?

 

Denial. As soon as I felt down I did everything that I could to forget about that situation. I moved on in order to escape the bad feelings. This was a good short-term coping mechanism, but I never dealt with the problem and never moved through the bad feelings. I just tried to put them out of mind.

 

In the long run, do you feel these coping mechanisms helped, or did they hinder you?

 

Hard to say, I am what I am and one can't go back. I think my tactic of denial worked to get me through the difficult times. But I carried a lot of baggage into adulthood that I had to deal with. It would have been good to have someone to talk to, a counselor or a speech therapist, who was sympathetic to what I was going through. Best of all would have been a self-help group in which I could havew talked about my speech to other kids and learned that it was OK to be open about it.

 

 5. A child who stutters needs a lot of encouragment and support. Please tell my readers:

 

What kind of home environment can a family provide that would lessen the stress levels of a child that stutters?

 

What my parents did right was giving me a lot of support and encouragement for the things I liked to do and for activities that I did well at. Sports, for one; and just hanging out with friends. They really encouraged me to have friends. What they did poorly was model good speaking habits and bring me into their own discussions about stuttering. Parents should try and slow their speech down, not so it's artificial but so it's relaxed. They should be patient listeners and monitor their facial expressions, so as not to convey impatience, frustration or any other negative feelings. They should role model conversational speech, not interrupt one another and give everyone time to get in a word or complete a thought. And parents never never should talk about their child's stuttering when he or she is in earshot, or in the same room. Hearing them whisper about it is worse than hearing it. It conveys the idea that stuttering is so awful it can't be discussed openly. It should be discussed openly with the child; or if between the parents in a private venue, someplace the child isn't.

 

What advice can you give a teacher who has a stuttering student in her class?

 

There's a lot of different opinions on this. I'd go on the on-line discussion group, stutt-l (access it on the Stuttering Home Page) and ask the question. Certainly, the teacher ought to be advised and should be asked to have patience, etc. The Stuttering Foundation of America has good literature on this. The controversial question is how much pressure to put on the student in oral reading and report. To not call on a child may be a relief to the child but will make him or her feel inadequate. To treat the child normally may make class stressful; due to anxiety about being call on. If possible talk to the child about the topic.

 

Stuttering Foundation of America

3100 Walnut Grove Road, #603

Memphis, TN 38111

Voice: (901) 452-7343

Fax: (901) 452-3931

Toll-Free: (800) 992-9392

E-mail: stutter@vantek.net

Internet: http://www.stutteringhelp.org

 

 6. Please, speak from your heart. Imagine that you are talking to a school age child that stutters.

What advice and encouragement could you give them?

 

First, this is something you do, not who you are. Everyone has difficulties, some people are smarter than others, some are too thin or two tall, or awkward or hard of hearing. Ain't none of us perfect. Stuttering is neither your fault or your parent's. Nor is it an indication of intelligence. It's simply a problem you were born with and if you want to work on it you can learn how to speak better. There are also organizations and on-line chat rooms for people just like you. Lots of people stutter and sometimes its fun to meet them or to talk online with them all over the world. Whatever it is you like to do, you should do it and enjoy it. If there's something you want to do but are afraid of doing because you stutter, accept it as a challenge and approach it a step at a time. If might be hard at first, but the more you accept the challenge of doing it, the easier it will become. If you talk to other kids who stutter you'll find that you all have the same challenges.

 

Discussion Forums, E-Publications, Newsgroups and Bulletin Boards, Pen Pal Opportunities, and Chat Rooms http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/kuster/Internet/Listserv.html

 

Stutter Buddies

A newsletter put out by the National Stuttering Association four times a year.

For children ages 6-12.

For more information see http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/kuster/kids/sbuddies.html

 

Friends

A bi-monthly publication for young people that stutter.

Published by Friends:National Association of Young People Who Stutter

For more info see http://www.friendswhostutter.org/

 

 7. I am sure it must be difficult to be the parent of a child that stutters. Watching a child struggle to speak can be very painful. Later on, a child may have social, emotional or academic problems. A parent can have very real fears that their child may never marry, hold a job, or fit in with the rest of society. Some parents feel they are to blame that their child stutters, and have to deal with feelings of guilt. Sometimes years of time and huge amounts of money are invested in speech therapy programs, counseling, and searches for the latest promising "cure." In the end, some parents have to accept their child won't outgrow their stuttering. Their problem will remain, in varying degrees, throughout their whole lifetime.

What advice can you give parents that will help them bear up under the stress of having a stuttering child?

 

Get involved with self-help and support groups go to their conventions and talk to other parents. Your child is not alone and neither are you.

 

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

10801 Rockville Pike

Rockville, MD 20852

Voice: (301) 897-5700

TTY: (301) 897-0157

Toll-Free: (800) 638-8255

Fax: (301) 571-0457

E-mail: actioncenter@asha.org

Internet: http://www.asha.org

 

Discussion Forums, E-Publications, Newsgroups and Bulletin Boards, Pen Pal Opportunities, and Chat Rooms http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/kuster/Internet/Listserv.html

 

Are there any self-help groups and organizations they can turn to?

 

The Stuttering Home Page lists organizations, as does the resource page in the back of the book. The NSA (National Stuttering Association) has chapters that meet twice a month all over the country. The annual conventions of the NSA, Speak Easy, the Canadian groups (and groups all over the world) are life-changing experiences for stutterers, spouses and parents.

 

The Stuttering Homepage

http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/kuster/stutter.html

Email: judith.kuster@mnsu.edu

Just for Kids section: http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/kuster/kids/kids.html

Just for Teens section: http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/kuster/kids/teens.html

 

National Stuttering Association

4071 East La Palma Avenue

Suite A

Anaheim Hills, CA 92807

Voice: (714) 693-7480

Toll-Free: (800) 364-1677

Fax: (714) 630-7707

E-mail: nsastutter@aol.com

Internet: http:// www.nsastutter.org

 

Speak Easy International Foundation, Inc.

233 Concord Drive

Paramus, NJ 07652

Voice/Fax: (201) 262-0895

E-mail: bob-antoinette@worldnet.att.net

 

 8. There is an old saying that every cloud has a silver lining.

Can you think of any positive lessons you have learned from being a person that stutters?

 

I've met wonderful people through the NSA, Friends, CAPS and Speak Easy. What I used to most hate about myself (my speech) has become a source of pride, not in the way I speak but in how I've overcome the shame and fear of it and in what role I can play to help others.

 

Has coping with a severe stutter made you more compassionate towards other people? More self-aware? A better communicator in some ways? etc.

 

I think I'm more aware and compassionate than I might otherwise be simply because I've had to confront some big frustrations and deal with heavy emotional baggage. To understand the progress I've made is a great feeling. Some of my friends say they are glad they stutter because of what they've become in the world. I'm not sure that I'd go that far. I wish I were more fluent and also as good a basketball player as Michael Jordan. But as my musician friends might say, I don't have the chops; i.e., the physical gifts to be a great basketball star or a wonderfully fluent speaker. That's life and who's perfect. The fact is I'm a good speaker, having lots to say and can hold an audience and, yes, sometimes I stutter when I speak, block on words and make funny faces. But people listen!

 

Fun Stuff for Kids and Teens (and most of it is free!)

 

The Stuttering Awareness Game:

A Jeopardy type of game created by Speech and Language Pathologist Tammy Bryant-McMillin.

Play it online at http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/kuster/kids/awareness.html

 

You Are in Control

A game for stutterers, their families and their friends

Download it in pdf format at http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/kuster/TherapyWWW/youareincontrol.pdf

 

Funny Bunny's Better Ideas

A four page coloring book that gives children tips on improving their speech

Download it in pdf format at http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/kuster/TherapyWWW/funnybunny.pdf

 

Stutter Buddies

A newsletter put out by the National Stuttering Association four times a year.

For children ages 6-12.

For more information see http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/kuster/kids/sbuddies.html

 

Friends

A bi-monthly publication for young people that stutter.

Published by Friends:National Association of Young People Who Stutter

For more info see http://www.friendswhostutter.org/

 

Jeremy and the Hippo (A Boy's Struggle with Stuttering)

a book by Gail Wilson Lew

Read it for free online at http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/ISAD3/papers/jeremybook/jeremy1.html

 

Sometimes I Just Stutter

a book by Eelco de Geus in English and Italian

Read it for free online at http://www.stutteringhelp.org/sijs/sijs.htm

 

Everyone's Unique

A printable poster about stuttering

See http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/kuster/kids/gifs/folks.html

 

Famous People Who Stutter

A long list of achievers, past and present, from a wide variety of careers.

See it online at http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/kuster/famous/famouspws.html

Be sure to visit the link where country singing legend Mel Tillis writes about his stuttering at http://nefsky.com/tillis.htm

 

On the Lighter Side

A page devoted to finding humor in our human-ness.  Contains some humorous anecdotes about stuttering.

http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/kuster/humor.html

 

Discussion Forums, E-Publications, Newsgroups and Bulletin Boards, Pen Pal Opportunities, and Chat Rooms http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/kuster/Internet/Listserv.html

Stuttering portrayed in songs, visual arts, literature, plays, TV and in cartoons

http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/kuster/media/media.html

 

 

 

Recommended Resources

 

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
National Institutes of Health
31 Center Drive, MSC 2320
Bethesda, MD USA 20892-2320
E-mail: nidcdinfo@nidcd.nih.gov

 

The Stuttering Homepage

http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/kuster/stutter.html

Email: judith.kuster@mnsu.edu
Just for Kids section http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/kuster/kids/kids.html

Just for Teens section http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/kuster/kids/teens.html

 

Understanding Stuttering

A presentation of MSNBC TV News

http://www.msnbc.com/onair/nbc/dateline/stutter/default.asp

 

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
10801 Rockville Pike
Rockville, MD 20852
Voice: (301) 897-5700
TTY: (301) 897-0157
Toll-Free: (800) 638-8255
Fax: (301) 571-0457
E-mail: actioncenter@asha.org
Internet: http://www.asha.org

National Stuttering Association
4071 East La Palma Avenue
Suite A
Anaheim Hills, CA 92807
Voice: (714) 693-7480
Toll-Free: (800) 364-1677
Fax: (714) 630-7707
E-mail: nsastutter@aol.com
Internet:http:// www.nsastutter.org

Speak Easy International Foundation, Inc.
233 Concord Drive
Paramus, NJ 07652
Voice/Fax: (201) 262-0895
E-mail: bob-antoinette@worldnet.att.net

 

Stuttering Foundation of America
3100 Walnut Grove Road, #603
Memphis, TN 38111
Voice: (901) 452-7343
Fax: (901) 452-3931
Toll-Free: (800) 992-9392
E-mail: stutter@vantek.net
Internet: http://www.stutteringhelp.org

 

 

Current Research and News Stories

 

Stuttering is Highly Influenced by Genes

http://www.newswise.com/articles/view/?id=STUTTER.SL1

 

GNT Programs Episode 10 on Stuttering Teens

http://www.abc.net.au/dimensions/dimensions_people/Transcripts/s828482.htm

 

Project Looks at Cause of Stuttering

http://www.dhs.vic.gov.au/humanservicesnews/nov02/cheque.htm

 

Identity Problems with Stuttering Children and Their Parents

http://www.davs.dk/materialer/artikler_og_oplaeg/paa_engelsk/eng_dorte_hansen_san_fransisco.htm

 

Stuttering (an overview for the non-professional)

http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/voice/stutter.asp

 

What Causes Stuttering?

http://www.sciam.com/askexpert_question.cfm?articleID=00003C9F-EFAB-1ECC-8E1C809EC588EF21

 

Neural Bases of Stuttering and Its Treatment

http://www.stuttersfa.org/Research/kroll.htm

 

Brain Research Helps Us to Understand Stammering

http://www.stammering.org/brainresearch.html

 

Stuttering, Tourette's and Tic Disorders

http://www.psychiacomp.com/didactic/stuttering.php

 

Medical Aspects of Stuttering

http://www.stuttersfa.org/Research/olanzapn.htm

 

 

Resources for Building a Child's Self-Esteem

 

Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet

http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/5000/5263.html

 

National Network for Child Care

http://www.nncc.org/Guidance/self.esteem.html

 

Kinderstart.com

http://www.kinderstart.com/frame_for_links.php?redirect=http://childdevelopmentinfo.com/parenting/self_esteem.shtml

 

Kids Health

http://www.kidshealth.org/parent/emotions/feelings/self_esteem.html

 

 

 

 

This material is copyrighted in 2003 by the author, Irene Helen Zundel.

 

For permission to publish this booklet in any form, in whole or in part please e mail me at artwhiz@greenepa.net

or write to me at:

 

410-C Ceylon Road

Carmichaels, PA  15320