Dear Abby Letters: Talking Openly About Stuttering

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Re: Dear Abby Letters

From: Peter Reitzes
Date: 02 Oct 2006
Time: 14:47:54 -0500
Remote Name:


Great questions Kelly and thanks for the kind words. In this year’s ISAD conference there is a paper by Jane Fraser and Judy Kuster that discusses a Stuttering Foundation of America video titled “Stuttering: For Kids, By Kids.” This short video showcases children who stutter speaking openly about a host of stuttering topics such as teasing and going to speech class. I highly recommend this video as a way to demonstrate to students that there are other children who stutter and that talking about stuttering is allowed. My friend Joseph Donaher has often has said, “The best role models for children who stutter are other children who stutter.” In this vain, I find it very helpful to create opportunities for children who stutter to meet other children who stutter. This is done in an attempt to “normalize” or “de-awfulize” stuttering and to help the client feel less isolated and alone with stuttering. Because many clinicians may only have only child who stutters on his or her caseload at any given time, getting children who stutter together often requires that a clinician schedule an intervisitation with a clinician from a local school or clinic. The focus of intervisitations is bringing children who stutter together to learn from one another. After such an intervisitation, engage the students in becoming pen-pals either through written letters, emails, or telephone calls (Of course, you will want to strictly adhere to your site’s rules and regulations concerning intervisitations and pen-pal relationships). Often, a child who is reluctant to discuss stuttering openly will have an easier time doing so after having witnessed another child (a role model) talk openly about stuttering. I have a free paper available that discusses ways to provide children who stutter with opportunities to mentor and act as role models for other children who stutter (available at There are so many great ways to engage students in talking about stuttering – I will briefly mention a few more. You may engage children in writing letters to teachers or parents about stuttering, guide them in creating a newsletter about stuttering for friends, parents, and teachers, and help students create a bulletin board about stuttering in a school or clinic. To answer your second question, yes, the Dear Abby activity can be modified to be used with teens and adults. Sometimes I simply discuss a difficult situation with a teen or adult that one of my other clients has faced and ask the teen or adult I am working with how they might respond. There are also many wonderful stories, poems, and descriptions of stuttering archived at After reading an appropriate story or poem with your client, ask questions such as, “How would you handle this situation” and “What do you think about this story?” Ken St. Louis has a book titled “Living with Stuttering” that includes many personal accounts of stuttering written by adults that make for good conversation starters. FRIENDS: The National Association of Young People Who Stutter ( and the National Stuttering Association ( also publish wonderful books that include first-hand accounts of growing and living with stuttering. Hope this helps! Peter

Last changed: 10/23/06