NSP: Activities for Children's Workshops
Ruth Warner Bass

As a new student of speech & language pathology, I had a burning desire to get out where things were happening and become acquainted with the people and the environment where I would soon be most of my time.

Fortunately, I had mentors who graciously included me in local speech and language support and study groups. One of these fine groups was the National Stuttering Project (NSP). I began volunteering for the NSP three times a year at their all day workshops for children in Pasadena. There, I learned from other dedicated speech-language pathologists, Gail Wilson Lew, Katie Peters, and Vivian Sheehan, what the needs and goals were for the families of children who stutter. Soon, I became the director of children's activities and have found some wonderful ways to make our time together a success.

My goals in working with children are:

  1. to provide a friendly environment for positive interaction.
  2. to engage the children in projects/crafts that help build self-esteem.
  3. to offer opportunities for discussion of fears, frustrations, and triumphs.
  4. to discover ways of dealing with the fears and frustrations encountered
  5. to arrange activities and discussions to ensure continuity of thoughts and feelings expressed throughout the day.
  6. to assist the children in coming up with their own solutions to resolve conflicts.

All of the following are variations of crafts and activities that were successful. Modifications can be made to suit any size or age of the group.
Craft: picture/collage, placemat
materials: Polaroid camera, film, poster board, clear contact paper, scissors, glue, crayons, marking pens, stickers, glitter, and magazine clippings of positive sayings.

front: Chose words that reflect positive things about yourself, things you would say about yourself, or things you would like to say about yourself one day. Glue these on the front of the poster board with your picture. Now, be creative and decorate your collage to express your personality. back: Write your name and the date on the top. List some things that you are good at today (sports, special talents, subject in school, musical instrument, etc.) using crayons or markers. Use your favorite colors. Now you have a placement about you. note: When all of the children have finished their craft, it's fun to sit in a circle and have each child share a few things from their collage with the group. It's a great way to learn a little about each person in a positive way, and it furnishes them with something to say. By this time, they have met some of the other children and adults at the workshop and are feeling comfortable. They seem to find this less threatening then opening the day with a "tell us about yourself" circle time.

Activity: Scrambled eggs
Materials: Plastic jumbo Easter eggs, 3x5 cards, marking pens
Each child gets 3-3x5 cards and a marking pen.

Instructions: Write down 1 thing on each card that people sometimes do when you stutter that annoys you. Fold up the card and put it inside a plastic egg. Put the eggs in a basket, bag or bucket. Scramble them all up. Each child chooses an egg, and one at a time, reads what's on the card inside to the group. Going around the circle, everyone in the group gets a chance to say whether this bugs them too, and offer a way to deal with this situation.
Note: This game is open-ended. If you have enough eggs in the basket, it can be designed to fit whatever your time schedule allows. The children are so wonderful, and with guidance from the SLP and NSP volunteers, often come up with the most interesting solutions to very difficult situations. This also offers the children a safe place to vent frustrations as well as talk among friends with the focus off the way they speak. Everyone focus is on what each person has to say.

Outdoor Play: recess/use up surplus energy/just have fun
A number of "party games" can be played like: relay races, etc. We have also used:

Who's the leader? Everyone sits in chairs in a circle and one person stands in the middle. One person in the circle, who has been chosen to be the leader, starts making body movements that everyone around the circle copies. The person in the middle tries to figure out who the leader is. When s/he does, they switch places, a new leader is chosen, and the game starts over. (All of the players in the chairs must be careful not to stare at the leader or it will be too easy for the person in the middle.)

Make me smile: Everyone stands in a circle. One person stands in the middle and one by one
stares at each person as s/he goes all the way around. The object of the game is to make the person in the middle smile or laugh by making ridiculous faces or saying funny things. When the person in the middle smiles or laughs, they trade places with the person who caused it and the game starts over.

Grip ball/Bingo/Brain Quest and other interactive games.
When we have time, we also like to play these. They are good for groups of 2-4 and are life savers if have children who don't wish to participate in the large group. NSP and SLP volunteers are instrumental here.

Lunch Assignment: Eat your lunch on your placemats. Sit with a friend and his/her family. Share some good things from your placemat with them.

Video Tape: Sometimes we like to video tape our activities and role-play our solutions to problems in front of the camera. The kids love to make movies to show their parents at the end of the day. The children who are camera shy are offered a game or coloring activity and are encouraged to interact one-on-one or in a small group with an adult volunteer.

Instructions: We will read some of our scrambled egg cards to the camera and say or act out the solutions we came up with. We will each hold up our placemats, tell about them, tell about 1 friend that we made today, and tell what we did for lunch.

Wrap Up: Near the end of the day, the children, parents, NSP and SLP student volunteers come together to form groups of four. Each group contains one child, one parent (not related to the child), one NSPer and one SLP student. The director passes out the 3x5 cards that the kids wrote out earlier in the day, and instructs the groups to a) have the children share a solution and b) have the parents come up with a solution.

Note: Annie Bradberry lead this activity at our 1996 Symposium and it brought continuity and closure to our day. This offers the parents insight into what other children who stutter might be faced with and it furnishes the children with ideas that perhaps they and their parents have never thought of. The wisdom and experience of other families is truly educational and eye opening.

Finally, the video can be shown and small prizes or stickers can be passed out to the children for coming to the workshop and participating.