Breaking the Ice

Below are some ideas that may help others in preparing to present to groups about stuttering. If you have other ideas or suggestions, please email Judy Kuster

Kathleen (Kelly) Politi wrote: "I present to school district staff on a weekly basis. About 3 years ago, I received a copy of "Being a Good Listener"...a pamphlet put out by NSA for people who want more information on stuttering. As people enter the room, I am at the door to hand them a copy of the pamphlet and introduce myself (great practice with the name thing!). Then, at the start of my presentations, I say something like this: "You're probably wondering why you have a pamphlet on stuttering! This talk is about autism! Well, you got this because of me. For those of you who did not get a chance to read it, when I have a block, the best thing for you to do is be patient. Let me know through your non-verbal language that it doesn't bother you. Try not to look away. As time goes on, the blocks will be less and less. The more comfortable you are with it, the more comfortable I am.....which in turn makes me more relaxed and fluent." It's REALLY worked! I'm known throughout the school district and have been called a "legend". Plus, what better way to get the pamphlet out to teachers, administrators, counselors, therapists, and support personnel!

Jim McClure wrote: I have been speaking to groups of SLPs and speech path students about stuttering for years and recommend the experience highly as public speaking "training wheels." Speaking to groups about stuttering eventually gave me confidence to tackle other speaking opportunities having nothing to do with stuttering. When I speak to a group of SLPs, my standard "ice-breaker" opener goes something like this:

"This is a great speaking opportunity for a person who stutters. For one thing, you already know that I stutter: That's why you invited me to speak. So that frees me from any inclination I may feel to try to hide my stuttering or make excuses for the way I talk. I also know that as SLPs, you have been trained to be kind to people with speech disorders.

"This adds up to a win-win situation for me as a public speaker --

Another ice breaker idea from Jim McClure involves self-disclosure of stuttering in a humorous ways: "I enjoy calling the news media to pitch stories on behalf of the NSA. Editors are busy people and often on deadline -- so when calling an editor it's customary for public relations people to first ask the editor if he or she has a few minutes to listen to a story pitch. My standard opener is: "I'm from the National Stuttering Association. Do you have two minutes to listen to a one-minute story pitch?"
Jim has also introduced a speech to technology experts in the following way: "I want to let you know up front that I am a person who stutters. So if I hesitate or block on a word, it's not because I'm nervous or unfamiliar with my materials -- it's because my brain processes speech differently. In the last few years scientists have been using brain-scan technology to show that the brain activity of people who stutter is different from normal speakers. I was glad to hear that, because for many years I thought it was a software problem."
last modified February 10, 2004