By Patty Walton, M.A./CCC-SLP
One of the most difficult challenges involved in planning activities for children who stutter is meeting the needs of different age groups. Activities are more easily planned for children ages 6-9 and teenagers. The children ages 10-13 often feel lost between the other groups, feeling too old for the younger activities and not really "fitting in" with the older teenagers.
Activities should be planned for all three age groups simultaneously throughout the day. In the activities listed below, many would be appropriate for more than one age group, however, the activity should be modified to fit each groups maturity level and carried out separately.
A primary goal of youth activities should be to create a sense of community and commradery among the children. This is most easily accomplished within a peer group. Other goals should be focused on helping children express and share their feelings regarding their stuttering in a supportive, encouraging atmosphere, and building self-esteem and self confidence as communicators.
The following activities are only suggestions and should serve as a place from which new ideas are born. They can be modified to fit the specific needs of the children.
(1) Signature T-Shirts
Materials: cotton T-shirts, waterproof markers (12 colors) paint tubes
Procedure: with each child wearing a blank T-shirt, have them choose a different color marker. They should move around the room and introduce themselves by saying their names and writing them on the T-shirts. Personal messages can also be written as well as names. The child may keep the marker with them throughout the workshop to have new people they meet autograph their shirts
(2) Ice Breaker
The children will benefit from a fun activity to get the day started. Ask a clown or a mime to do a show for children. The show should include some aspects of speech and communication, as well as emotions. Treats such as medals and fun stickers help the children feel special. Balloon makers are also fun.
(3) Authoring a Book AboutStuttering
Explore community resources to find a local author and/or artist. An artist with charicature experience would be preferable. During this activity the children should sit in a circle and share a specific experience or feeling regarding their stuttering. As the child is sharing his thoughts the artist will sketch the child's face as what he is saying is being recorded on a separate page. These experiences are the compiled into book form that the group will title.
During sharing time with the parents each child shares his story. An example from the Denver Youth Day Book is as follows:
"I'm glad that I don't have to hide on the playground anymore and wait for the bell to ring"
This particular activity will encourage the children to share thoughts and feelings in a safe, supportive environment.
(4) Create a Wall Muiral
Materials: A long roll of white paper at least 3' wide and 15'long, markers, and paints.
Procedure: Hang the paper in an easily accessible area with room for the children to write and draw. On the mural they can draw pictures, write stories, make comments, or simply sign their names.
* * This was done in Long Island, N.Y. at the teen workshop organized by Lee Caggiano.
(5) Book of Affirmations
Materials: Crayons and pictures of affirmations
Procedures: separate sheets of paper have positive affirmations printed. For instance, "I have things to say," "I am special," "I can choose how to talk." On each page, either have an artist pre-draw the pictures or have the children draw their own. These can then be compiled into books for the children to take home.
(6) Speech Pen-Pals
Materials: Index cards, rubber bands and pens. Encourage children to exchange addresses and phone numbers. This will help them feel "connected" after the day is over.
(7) Support Groups/Roundtable
For the older children and teens, open mike or support group sessions help serve as a catalyst for sharing feelings. It would be helpful to have several adults who stutter part of this activity to help keep the session moving.
(8) Make A Movie
Encourage the older children and teens to make videotapes of role-playing. Different topics could be addressed during this filming and the content should be left in the hands of the participants.