Talking to Kids Who Stutter (Pamela Mertz)

mertzAbout the author:  Pamela Mertz is a person who stutters who is very active in the stuttering community. She is a Stutter Social host, writes the blog “Make Room For the Stuttering” and hosts the podcast “Women Who Stutter: Our Stories”. She has presented workshops on stuttering both regionally and nationally, and has spoken at three international stuttering events. Pam is also a 9-year Toastmaster and has achieved Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) status. Pam works full time in a high school in the Albany, NY area as a recruiter and outreach specialist, spending most of her time doing public speaking presentations. In 2016, Pam was elected to the National Stuttering Association (USA) Board of Directors and also the International Stuttering Association Board of Directors, serving as Secretary.

Authors Note: This short paper relates to the theme of Stuttering Pride as noted by the examples of the kids taking pride in some aspect of their stuttering (towards end of paper). I also took great pride in being able to talk to these kids about stuttering, as an adult who stutters who wished I had had such opportunities as a kid who stuttered.

Talking to Kids Who Stutter

I recently had a wonderful opportunity to speak to kids who stutter at a stuttering camp. The director had invited me to meet with the kids, ages 8-12, via Skype during the middle of their week long session. Before my talk, the kids explored my blog and my podcast and got the chance to get to know me a little. They then developed questions to ask me when we met over Skype.

The goal of the week was to get the kids talking about stuttering, to gain confidence and new skills and to learn how to create their own podcast.

My chat with the kids was great. They asked about how I feel when I stutter, if I ever get nervous when talking in front of people and what I’ve done to get comfortable talking. They also asked what it was like for me in school when I was their age. I asked them questions too, based on what they asked me. We had a real back and forth conversation and we all learned from each other.

The kids had never met an adult who stutters. I think they thought it was cool! To me, it brought back thoughts of how I wished I had met an adult who stutters when I was a kid. It would have gone a long way to help normalize stuttering for me. I think this chat with the kids helped normalize it for them, talking casually and asking questions about stuttering.

Later in the day, after our talk, the director emailed me. The kids had been asked to reflect on their day and several said my talk was a highlight. That made me feel so proud. One kid drew a picture to illustrate what it looked like when I was talking to them via Skype. (See picture below!)

photo-mertz

Later in the week, the kids learned how to create podcasts using Garage Band. They did several podcasts, on all kinds of creative topics. They got to experiment with how their voices sounded on recordings, and learned the skills of editing and adding music to their work.

The kids also gave presentations on the last day to their parents and SLP students about facts on stuttering, what they learned during the week and what they’re thinking about for the new school year. The director shared with me that their confidence had skyrocketed from the beginning of the week, and that they all seemed to enjoy talking (a lot!) by the end of the week.

This was a unique opportunity for these children. They focused on talking, having fun and gaining confidence. I was happy to have a small part in that. What I saw was a group of kids who found something to be proud of regarding their stuttering, maybe something they had never before experienced.

And I was proud to share my stuttering with kids who stutter. If more adults who stutter would talk to kids who stutter, we would definitely normalize the experience for kids. If you get the opportunity, volunteer to talk to kids in school or at a camp or a speech therapy group. It will be a win-win situation for both the kids and adults, I guarantee it.

1,905 total views, 2 views today

Comments

Talking to Kids Who Stutter (Pamela Mertz) — 148 Comments

  1. Hi Pamela,
    Thank you so much for sharing your experience. These kids clearly benefitted from you sharing your own experiences and answering their questions. You helped them gained confidence to create their own podcasts. I like what you said about the importance for adults and children to share their experiences with one another. As a future Speech-Language Pathologist, I would consider having group sessions with adults and children who stutter. This will hopefully encourage a safe and positive environment for therapy.
    Thank you again for your contribution,
    Emily

  2. Hi Pamela,

    I really enjoyed reading about your experience Skyping in at the camp! Its awesome to see adults connecting with children and helping them feel confident in who they are. I am currently a graduate student studying to be an SLP and am looking for helpful therapy techniques when working with children who stutter. Do you have any advice on getting adults and children who stutter connected? Also I read in a comment of yours that you did not get speech therapy as a child. Was there a reason for that? And looking back on your childhood, do you have any thoughts on what could would have been useful to you as a child who stuttered that a speech therapist could have worked on (aside from connecting with adults)?

    Thanks!
    Karli

    • Hi Karli – good questions.

      I think the best way to get adults and children who stutter connected is through the National Stuttering Association (NSA.) The NSA has chapters all across the US where adults meet in self help support meetings. If there is one in your area, contact the chapter leader and let them know you’d like to connect willing adults with kids who stutter and I’m sure you’ll get a lot of volunteers. The NSA website is: http://www.westutter.org

      I did not get speech therapy as a child because my father would not allow it. I always felt he was ashamed of me, and having a kid in therapy would have indicated publicly that there was something wrong with one of his kids and he wasn’t having that. He was horrible to me about my stuttering. he would yell at me when I stuttered to “STOP THAT” or “TALK RIGHT” or “I’LL GIVE YOU SOMETHING TO STUTTER ABOUT.” His lack of support and cruel comments scared me and I felt that there must have been something wrong with me. I became ashamed began trying to hide my stuttering as much as possible so that I wouldn’t get that negative feedback from my father.

      Your other question is a good one too. I think it would have been helpful to talk to a SLP about stuttering because I did not have ANYONE to talk with about it. It was never discussed at home – my parents acted like it wasn’t there and my siblings never brought it up directly. Sometimes they made fun of me, but for the most part, my stuttering was the elephant in the room. It would have been helpful to have someone validate my feelings and would have been really helpful to have someone help me deal with teasing I got at school. The teasing was covert – kids only picked on me when adults weren’t around.

      It was tough for me growing up because I forced myself to stay quiet when I really wasn’t the quiet type. I had so much to say but never wanted to risk stuttering publicly and have to deal with negative reactions or consequences. Thank goodness as an adult I finally had enough and decided to stop hiding and let my true self out. It’s just a shame that I wasted so many years. But I’m making up for lost opportunities now at this stage in my life. 🙂

      Pam

      • Hi Pam!

        Thank you for sharing your personal story, and thanks Karli for asking such good questions! I am also a graduate student studying SLP.

        It broke my heart a little to read that you were teased and tormented by your own father. Those kids at the camp were so lucky to have you as a resource, mentor, and positive role model. I am sure having that sense of “I’m not alone in this” will be invaluable for them as they get older.

        I was doing some reading about Response-Contingency Therapy, where the clinician/parent positively reinforces fluent speech and points out when stuttering occurs. My initial thought on this was, “Eeek that seems a little harsh.” I wouldn’t want to unintentionally instill a fear of speaking in the child by calling them out every time they stutter, which sounds like happened to you as a child. I guess the important part of this would be the positive reinforcement piece, but I still wonder if that would be enough, especially if there are many disfluencies occurring. What are your thoughts on using this approach?

        Sierra

        • Hi Sierra – my first reaction was similar to yours. I really don’t like anything that counts disfluent speech and then alludes to the need for it to be corrected. Regardless if there is positive reinforcement, the child might still pick up the idea that stuttering is bad and might internalize all the feelings that go along with thinking something is bad. Shame is the toughest emotion to tackle around stuttering. I have heard about, and briefly read about the Lidcomb program, which also suggests trying again and correcting stuttered speech and having praise when you are fluent. That seems to be a lot of pressure to place on a child who stutters. In my opinion they have enough to deal with as a stutterer than to also worry about starting over and being corrected every time the child stutters.

          Thank you for empathizing with my experience as a child. It was very difficult and most definitely led me to being covert.

          Pam

  3. Hi Pamela, thank you for sharing your experience and speaking to children about stuttering. Your story reminds me of the first time I heard an adult stutter. I was in second or third grade when I first met a person who stutters. My brother signed up for guitar lessons and his guitar instructor stutters. I remember my mother describing to my siblings and I that the guitar instructor stuttered. She told us what stuttering was and that people cannot help that they stutter. When we first met the guitar instructor, he had a difficult time introducing himself. He had many syllable repetitions at the beginning of words and blocks in his speech. I remember a woman looking at guitars to purchase with her son and he overheard the instructor introducing himself to us. Her young son asked her, “why does he talk so funny?” The woman told her son that it was not polite to ask questions like that, but did not inform him about stuttering. The woman continued to shop for guitars while her son confusingly stared at the guitar instructor. Looking back, I am glad my mother told us about stuttering. I believe that I became more sensitive and understanding of people who stutter after being informed about stuttering. Do you think that society has a lack of knowledge about stuttering or a lack of exposure to people who stutter? Or both? You said how you think if more adults who stutter took the time to talk to children about stuttering, that it would help normalize stuttering. Do you think that adults also do not fully understand stuttering? Or do you think that it is mostly children who are unaware of what stuttering is?

    Thanks!
    Caitlin

    • Hey Caitlin – what good questions. And thanks for sharing that story about the guitar teacher. Your mother handled it beautifully.

      I think society has a lack of knowledge about stuttering and lack of exposure to stuttering for the same reason. People who stutter often keep their stuttering hidden and don’t take opportunities to educate others and raise awareness. I’m a firm believer that we who stutter need to be the ones to educate others on the experience. So many people avoid speaking situations or avoid disclosing that they stutter that is it often rare to encounter a person who stutters. That’s why, in my opinion, knowledge and understanding is lacking.

      To your other questions, yes, I think that many adults are misinformed about stuttering and rely on media portrayals, which are often stereotypical, for their information on stuttering. Growing up, I hated movies like “My Cousin Vinny” because the stuttering character was so clearly there only for comedy and to get a laugh. I know the same was true of “A Fish Called Wanda” which I never saw but heard similar that the stuttering was just for comedic value.

      I have encountered adults who have made fun of my stuttering, by mimicking me, laughing, asking if I forget my name, etc. Once, in a grocery store, I was at the deli attempting to order some deli meats and cheese. I stuttered on “American cheese” – it came out “amer-amer-amer-amer and then nothing, I blocked and couldn’t get it out. The clerk started laughing and said if I couldn’t say what I wanted, then I couldn’t get anything at all. His colleague was embarrassed for him and attempted to intervene by asking again what I wanted. The second time I tried to get it out, I was able to say American, but stuttered on cheese. The first clerk yelled out that if I couldn’t say cheese then I’d have to buy chicken wings. I was mortified. There were people behind me and I felt my cheeks flush red and could feel tears starting to form. I remember getting my cheese and paying for it and quickly exiting the store and going to my car where I burst out crying. And I was an adult too – in my 40’s. It was shocking to me that an adult would treat another adult this way, but it’s a good example of how people don’t understand stuttering.

      So much more education and awareness is needed in order to get society to accept and understand stuttering like other disabilities are. People don’t laugh at people in wheelchairs or deaf people. We have a long way to go! Hopefully SLPs will help us educate and spread awareness. Good luck on your journey. Hope this was helpful. -Pam

  4. Hello, I really think having an adult talk to someone younger who stutters would be as beneficial in therapy as it was to you and the kids at that camp.It gives children a different perspective of stutter and help to provide reassurance that everything will be okay.

    Olivia

  5. Hello Ms. Mertz,
    I enjoyed reading about your experience talking with children who stutter. I love that they had an opportunity to ask you questions and get your perspective as an adult who stutters. I would imagine not being surrounded by other people who stutter, especially adults, may make children who stutter worry about what their future will look like. It’s great for them to see successful role models like yourself and have their questions answered.

  6. Dear Ms. Mertz,

    My name is Sally and I am currently a graduate student studying speech-language pathology. I have always been humored by the fact that when I tell people my major is “speech therapy” many of their first instincts is to ask a question such as “oh, so you’re going to be the one who help little kids who stutter?” Although the field of an SLP is vast, we do have the joy of helping young children overcome (or embrace) their stuttering. The idea of an adult sharing their stuttering story with children is one that I have never thought of, but immediately understood the positive impact of it. Thank you for sharing your story, it put a smile on my face and made me eager to continue in my studies.

    Best wishes,
    Sally

  7. Hello Ms. Mertz,

    I am currently interning with an SLP at an elementary school in Minnesota this semester as part of my graduate school program. I have a couple children on my caseload who stutter. The kids attend therapy together, but I think it would be great for them to have the opportunity to attend a camp like the one you described in your article and meet more people who stutter. I can see how helpful this would be for increasing their confidence in themselves and their speech. Do you have any suggestions for how I might find similar camps or activities for kids who stutter in my area?

    Thanks!
    Jenna

    • Hi Jenna – there are several stuttering camps for children and teens throughout the United States, with the largest being Camp SAY, which is based out of North Carolina. Kids from all over the country go to that one, and all are welcome, even if finances are a concern. They do extensive fund raising and have scholarships available. I’d do a simple Google search for “children’s stuttering camps” and several should come up.

      The one I spoke at was a university based program – a one week summer intensive camp experience that I believe served kids that were already being seen in the university’s clinic program during the regular school year. Check with your department chair – they may have info or maybe would be interested in starting one up in your area.

      Pam

  8. Hi Pamela,
    I am currently a second year graduate student, going for my master degree in speech language pathology. SLP’s are always looking for ways to show children that they should not be ashamed of a stutter, and that they are just as normal as everyone else. A great way to boost children’s confidence is to show children adults with a stutter who are successful, and happy. Children look up to adults, and by showing them that adults can be successful and live a normal life with a stutter gives them a sense of comfort. Thank you Pamela for sharing with us such a beautiful story!

    Jacqueline

  9. Hi Pamela,

    I am a very first year graduate student in SLP. Thank you for your story! For kids who stutter to have a role model to look up to and relate to who is also like them is SO so important! You’re right, not only does it help to normalize stuttering for these youngsters, but it also helps to reduce the powerful negative stigma associated with stuttering in our culture (i.e. that it is bad, something you should be ashamed of, that you cannot be successful or happy or live a “normal” life, that you are isolated from society). I’m so happy that you have found your voice and are confident enough in your own skin to share yourself with these beautiful children. I am not somebody who stutters, but reading and listening to the stories of many people who do stutter– I know it’s going to make a world of difference to these children and to how they see themselves as they continue to grow up. And as you mentioned so poignantly, if all people who stutter could have had this experience when they were little..

    Thanks for sharing your story and for showing up in the world as you are,
    Lauren

  10. Hi Pamela,

    I definitely enjoyed reading your story about the children’s camp! I love that you were able to be a role model for these kids. I am currently a graduate student pursuing my master’s degree as an SLP. In my fluency class, we have discussed the importance of talking about your own talking. I agree that this is very important for children who stutter, and you were able to give them this experience in a very beneficial way. As a class, we have also talked a lot about pseudo-stuttering (purposely fake-stuttering) as a clinician, so the clients feel more comfortable and willing to stutter with us during therapy. I think this also relates to your comment about “normalizing” the experience, especially for kids. I can definitely see how building a relationship with an adult who stutters can be very inspiring for a child who stutters. I will keep this in mind in my future career!

    Thank you so much for sharing,
    Sydney

  11. Hello Ms. Mertz,
    I enjoyed reading your experience talking to children who stutter. I agree with your statement that, “If more adults who stutter would talk to kids who stutter, we would definitely normalize the experience for kids.” I am a second year graduate student studying Speech-Language Pathology. During my undergraduate clinical experience, I worked in a social skills group therapy setting. One boy whom I was working with, stuttered, and there happened to be a student clinician who also stuttered working in this group. I will never forget, one day he told the student that they talked the same. So she asked, “and what’s wrong with that?” The boy looked surprised and said, “well, people think it’s weird.” The student clinician told the boy, “Don’t you think everyone is a little weird in their own ways, and this is just ours?” I have never seen a child relate so whole-heartedly to a clinician and his social skills progressed so much after that.

    Even though weird may not be the best term to be using, the boy was able to identify and relate to the clinician and I think more children who stutter need to hear more from adults who stutter.

    In what ways would you suggest including children who do not stutter into a conversation, as well? While I think it is nice for the individual who stutters to have the personal connection with the adult, I do feel like all classroom peers should also be included so they can have a takeaway from the experience, as well.

    Thank you for sharing your story,
    Jodi

    • Hi Jodi – thanks for sharing that story about the boy and the clinician that both stuttered. I happen to like the word “weird” as I agree with the clinician, we are all weird in some way. If you ever get the chance, check out the book, “We Are All Weird” by Seth Godin. It’s a short read and it’s about non-conformity. People who stutter should never feel compelled to conform with fluent expectations. We are who we are!

      As for your questions about including children who don’t stutter, I would suggest doing a classroom presentation. The child who stutters could do a cool classroom talk about stuttering to his classmates and teacher and educate them about stuttering. If the child is not comfortable doing this on his own, perhaps the SLP could do it with him, or the child’s best friend. It doesn’t have to be long but it can be enough to get kids talking about it so it’s normalized. There are resources for doing classroom presentations on the NSA site, at http://www.westutter.org

      I have gone in and talked to middle schools about stuttering so that kids who don’t stutter become aware of what it is. I relate it to other differences and also talk about teasing and bullying. I have exercises that the kids can do to “try on” stuttering, such as voluntary stuttering, Chinese finger traps to get the feel of being stuck and a grapefruit game to simulate being covert. I end the talk with having a stuttering contest and give out prizes for the longest stutter, loudest stutter, coolest stutter, etc. It always goes over very well.

      Pam

  12. Hi Pamela,

    I really enjoyed learning about your experience Skyping with children at camp! I think that it is great that you are willing to reach out and connect with children who stutter. I’m sure that they loved to speak with an adult who stutters and “gets it”, gets what they are going through. You stated that you wished that you would have had an opportunity to speak with an adult who stutters when you were a child. I know that there are many reasons why this is beneficial, but I am curious to hear how you think this would have helped or benefited you as a child? Do you use this information when you speak with children who stutter and make sure that you include the information you wish you would have known as a child? Additionally, do you have any advice on getting adults and children who stutter together, so that beneficial conversations, like the ones you had with the children at camp can happen all over the world?

    Thanks!
    Allison

    • Hi Allison – the reason I think it would have been beneficial for me to have met an adult who stutters when I was a child was that it would have reassured me that I was not the only one. And that there was hope that I’d grow up normal and have a family and successful job. That’s what I remember being scared about – that I wouldn’t be a normal adult who could do things and be accepted and get a good job. I have shared this with kids when I talk to them about stuttering.

      As for getting adults and children together to talk and have those engaging conversations, I would recommend checking out your local area NSA chapter and see if an adult from the chapter would be willing to come and meet the child and talk and share a pizza or ice cream. Or, using technology. Skype can open up doors easily and effectively and from my experience, the kids that’s cool.

      Hope that helps.

      Pam

  13. Hello Ms. Mertz,

    Thank you so much for sharing such a wonderful story! I’m currently a first year graduate student studying to become an SLP, and my goal is to work in an elementary school, so reading what you had to say about talking with children who stutter has really inspired me. The thought of having an adult who stutters talk with and answer questions of children who stutter had never crossed my mind before. I love that you were able to have a full on conversation with these children – I can only imagine the confidence booster it must have been to them to have that reassurance and know that they can be successful in their futures, no matter what! This is definitely something that I will keep in mind for my future career!

    Thank you so much again for sharing such a fantastic story,
    Katie

  14. Hi Pamela,

    As a first year graduate student of Speech Language Pathology, this story truly resonated with me. It is difficult to hear stories of young children being bullied or feeling isolated because they have a stutter. I believe your Skype session was a wonderful idea, not only for children who stutter, but for anyone and everyone! I think the awareness of stuttering needs to be increased, which I hope to do in my future as a clinician. I also believe that people of all ages who stutter need to be exposed to others who stutter to begin feeling a sense of pride for their stuttering behaviors.

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful story.
    Kelsey

  15. Hello Pamela,
    Thanks so much for sharing your story. It blows my mind that the kids you spoke to had never met an adult who stutters before, and it saddens me to think that they felt so alone in their experiences. It is amazing what a positive impact you had on them in such a short amount of time, and all it took was a single Skype conversation for you. If everyone took that tiny amount of time out of their day to contribute to stuttering awareness, I can’t even imagine what the results would be. Also, being able to talk about stuttering out in the open like that seems so simple, yet so many people are afraid to address it, and I think that is what truly brings on the negative connotation when truly there should not be one. If you had an adult who stuttered to converse with and share your feelings with when you were a child struggling with stuttering, how do you think that would have affected your experiences growing up?
    Thank you again for sharing your story!
    -Heather

    • Hi Heather – quite simply, knowing an adult who stutters when I was a kid would have made me feel so much less alone. That was my big thing – feeling lonely, isolated and that I was the only one who stuttered. Knowing an adult who stutters would have given me HOPE – that I’d grow up normal, that I’d have friends and family that would support me and that I’d be able to get a good job doing something that I enjoy.

      Pam

  16. Hi Pamela,
    Thank you for sharing your experience. I am currently a graduate student studying speech pathology. I have always imagined myself becoming a speech pathologist in a school based system. The topic of your experience was so interesting to me. It is so important for children to have positive role models and a strong self image of themselves, especially during childhood, as this is an important time in shaping the person they become in the future. I am sure those children benefited greatly from gaining a new role model and hearing you speak. I am so glad you shared your story!

    Thank you,
    Haley

  17. Hi Pamela,

    Thanks so much for sharing this experience! I love the idea of connecting children who stutter with adults who stutter – that is such a cool way to show children examples of success and give them a role model who can really empathize with them. Also, what a wonderful idea it is to have a camp for children who stutter to form connections with each other and realize they are not alone! I’m a grad student of Speech Language Pathology and was wondering if you have any other suggestions or even a personal experience to share relating to how a clinician could successfully grow a child’s confidence and pride (especially if the child felt very negatively towards his or her stutter)? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

    Thanks again for sharing and best wishes!

    Emily

  18. Hi Pam,
    Thank you for sharing! As a first year graduate student of Speech Language Pathology, I think this is an amazing idea to incorporate in a therapy session! Introducing these children who stutter to an adult who stutters that is successful and confident in their own stutter is so inspiring! You mentioned that the goal of the week was to get kids talking about stuttering and gain confidence. I was wondering if these kids expanded outside of their camp and talked about stuttering to individuals that do not stutter? If so how did they go about doing this. Do you think having children who stutter teach others about stuttering will increase their confidence?
    Thanks,
    Abby Killian

  19. Hi Pamela,

    This story really resonated with me, and I applaud you for being a role model for thess children. I had a question about your experience or your daily practice. During your Skype session, did you encounter anybody who was really negative about his/her stuttering? What would you tell that child?

    Thank you!

    -Kellie

  20. Hi Pamela,
    I am a first year graduate student in Speech-Language Pathology and am astonished as to how much you have reached out to many people. I loved the idea of building confidence in children who stutter. Children are so vulnerable and may develop negative thoughts about stuttering (which in return may contribute to less motivation in therapy and/or other psychological problems such as depression). I also enjoyed your input about how you wish you met an adult who stuttered when you were a kid. This is definitely an idea to keep in mind as a future speech-language pathology. It is important for kids to understand that they aren’t alone, that even though they may be in therapy, that does not mean they need to completely fix their stuttering. They should be encouraged to feel confident about who they are. Thank you for reaching out to so many people!
    Best wishes,
    Jade

  21. Hi Pamela,

    Thanks so much for sharing your story – you are a rockstar to other PWS and especially those children at the camp who stutter! First, I think it is amazing to hear that there are camps for children to go to where they can meet other children who stutter; I have never heard of that before. Second, I think both the camp and the children being able to talk to an adult who stutters is an AMAZING way to help normalize stuttering. It sounds like you really made an impact on those children. Have you ever thought about other ways to reach to out to children who stutter or ways to help normalize stuttering?

  22. Hi Ms. Mertz, I am a graduate student studying speech language pathology. I loved reading your paper! I was wondering, can you give me some advice on how to help the children feel pride in their stuttering? Would working alongside other children who stutter be beneficial?

    • Hi Victoria – yes, a absolutely working with other kids who stutter would help boost a child’s pride in their own difference. It helps foster pride when we see that we’re not the only one.

      I felt like that when I was a child – lonely, isolated and weird. It definitely would have helped to have known someone else who stuttered. It would have helped me feel normal.

      Pam

  23. Hello Ms. Mertz,

    I never realized that adult-child interaction for adults and children who stutter could make such a difference! What an awesome way of providing a sort of comfort for children, and adults, too! What were some specific tips you gave to the children during the Skype session? As a person who deals with a large amount of social anxiety, I am curious to know some of your coping methods in more detail, and the advice you gave to those children.

    Thanks,

    Jaclyn

    • Hi Jaclyn – I would recommend that you read through some of the previous responses I’ve made to similar questions, about tips I’ve gave.

      As for anxiety, some of the things I’ve done to increase my confidence have included Toastmasters and an improv class. Both have boosted my confidence and lessened performance anxiety, which I think is huge in people who stutter.

      Pam

  24. Hello,

    I really enjoyed this story! I think its very important to speak to children at a young age because this is the age where it all begins. This is where they develop the sense of who they are. Having exposure to an adult that stutters is really important. It has never crossed my mind on how much this interactin may effect the child positively. Its amazing that you were able to give them that experience. These children have now developed a sense of confidence that others will be able to see. This new confidence and pride will help them through out their tough times and it will help them educate others. Do you think this interaction should be set up in all programs?

    Thank you ! – Sasha Sanon

  25. Hello Pamela,
    Thank you for sharing your experience of taking the action to be a role model for these children. I think that it is extremely important for these young kids to understand that there are people that they can reach out to. I think that given the fact that you stated that you wished an adult had talked to you as a child is a weighted statement. I think that it is important to trump negative attitudes toward stuttering at the base, that way they can grow up to feel proud and accepting of their stutter.

  26. Hi Pamela,

    Thanks for sharing about this great experience of yours. As a future SLP it is great to hear about ways I can help future kiddo’s who stutter. I noticed there have been a lot of questions and discussion on this forum about stuttering camps for children to attend. It seems like a great opportunity to help children who stutter, but I am curious if you have had the experience or know of any cases where children have reacted badly to being sent to a stuttering camp? For example, if they are very sensitive to the fact that they communicate differently from their peers, do they ever feel as though these camps single them out even more, rather than seeing it as an experience that will help them and feel that they are not alone? How can SLPs or parents decide if their child would benefit from a camp like this before sending them?

      • Hi Laura – to my knowledge of the few stuttering camps I know about, children weren’t just “sent there.” They wanted to go. Most have been in speech therapy and heard about the opportunity to hang out with other kids who stutter. It was an experience they looked forward to.
        I think the best way for SLPs or parents to check out these camps beforehand is to try to talk to children and parents who have experienced the camp experience. Getting firsthand testimony would be beneficial for the decision making process.

        Pam

  27. Hi Pamela!
    First of all, I think it’s wonderful that you took the time to talk to these children and share your personal experiences with stuttering. This is such a good way to help children understand the processes of stuttering that others go through, as well as how they were able to gain confidence through their experiences. Currently, I am working with two children who stutter and I think it would be great for them to have the opportunity to speak to other individuals who stutter. I like the idea of meeting over Skype to have a conversation with the children. I am wondering if you know any other adults or groups of individuals who stutter that communicate via Skype or through other means of media that would be beneficial for young children to talk to/watch?

    Thanks!
    Jessica

  28. Mrs. Mertz,

    As a future SLP, it was enlightening to read about your experience with children who stutter. It was great to read that the children felt that it was cool to be speaking with an adult who stutters. Often times, it seems that stuttering is viewed as a negative aspect of one’s life. The children at this camp all sound like they have a great attitude about their stuttering rather than seeing it negatively. Providing them with opportunities to learn about their own stuttering through activities like creating a podcast is a great idea. In addition, I really liked that the children gave presentations on various aspects of stuttering. Activities such as these increases their own awareness while also showing them that stuttering is not something to be ashamed of.

    Thank you for sharing your experience,
    Shelby

  29. Hi Pamela,

    Thank you for sharing your experience, I love the drawing that you attached! It sounds like the children really benefitted greatly from talking to an adult who also stutters. I think that it is very important for them to be confident enough to talk with an adult about their experiences.

    As a future SLP and not a PWS, I would be interested in organizing a speech therapy group with a PWS. What types of activities do you feel would be most beneficial? Are there specific things that you wish someone would have addressed when you were younger?

    • Hi Nisma – thanks for your questions. In the interest of time, as the conference is now closed, I would encourage you to read through some earlier responses I made to the same question.

  30. Hello Pamela,

    I loved reading your story and hearing about how these kids benefited from talking to you! As a graduate student in speech-language pathology, I am well aware of the importance of early intervention for speech and language. However, you have given me a new perspective of the meaning of early intervention. You spoke to children 8-12 years old which can be a very difficult time for many children, especially if they feel different from their peers in any way. By speaking to these kids you gave them a true gift. You showed them that it is okay to stutter and that it is in fact something to be proud of. It is a part of who they are as individuals, but it does not define them and I think that you really helped them see that. I think that shaping their ideas about stuttering in childhood in a positive way is so important. I believe this will ultimately lead to better quality of life through adolescence and adulthood because they will have that confidence and validation that stuttering is not bad. It is just a different way of talking. From what I have learned in my fluency class, I think that talking about stuttering and feeling free to talk as a person who stutters is a great way to destigmatize it to the general public. If I ever have the opportunity to work with PWS I will keep your story in mind in hopes that I will be able to make a difference as you have. Thank you for sharing your story!

    Best wishes,
    Marissa

  31. This piece is informative by bringing the topic of confidence in a child who stutters. It reminds me of stutter modification topic we discussed in my Voice and Fluency class. I feel it is very important to have a child and an adult to understand their stuttering and to talk about instead of seeing it as a problem within them. Sharing your story to these kids definitely helps them comprehend stuttering not as a problem but as another unique characteristic that makes up that person. This leads me to my question. Is there people you have worked with you do not care about accepting their disfluency but rather want see this as a problem that just needs to be fixed?

    • Hi Omar – when I was attending a group therapy program for stuttering, there were many people who were totally focused on fluency and “fixing” their stuttering. That wasn’t me! When I would share about acceptance and that it was ok to stutter, I could feel some people in the room tense up in disagreement. They would respond to me that stuttering was “abnormal” and needed to be corrected. This was about 6 years ago and the individuals were all men. Made me think about whether they had struggled with that thinking their whole lives. Some of them had been going to the group for many years – 10 or 20+ years. Yet they weren’t fluent. Imagine thinking you’re abnormal for that length of time and needing to be fixed. I didn’t stay in the group long!

      Pam

  32. Hi Pamela,

    Thank you so much for sharing this experience with us. It is so heart-warming to hear how the kids truly enjoyed talking with you and viewed you as a role model. You were able to connect with them on a very personal level, and in turn, instilled confidence in them. I am glad to hear that it was inspiring to see how you were able to help them see that stuttering should not be viewed as a problem that simply needs to be addressed, but as part of who they are as a person. I also love the idea of stuttering camps, which I had not been aware of before. As a graduate student, I currently have a 6 year old client who stutters but is not aware of it. These camps would be a great resource or suggestion to share with the parents of my client who stutters. I think it would be such a great experience for them to interact with other children and adults who stutter. Also, if I have additional clients who stutter in the future, I will definitely consider inviting an adult who stutters to come speak with them, whether it be in person or via Skype. After having read your experience with children who stutter, I think it is rather important for children to learn that stuttering is not something to be ashamed of. In this way, it would help foster positive feelings toward stuttering by minimizing the social stigma associated with stuttering.

    Thank you,
    Shizuka

  33. Hi Ms. Mertz!

    Thank you for another insightful posting. I am a graduate student of Speech-Language Pathology and have recently been thinking of my future as a SLP working in the public school system. Currently, my off-campus placement is at a public elementary school and I have a couple of kids on my supervisor’s caseload seeking speech services for fluency. I like how you say that children who stutter (CWS) may benefit from speaking to adults who stutter as it may help “normalize” stuttering. I’ve thought along these lines as well but also thought it might not be as feasible to find adults who stutter in every community who are willing to speak to general education classrooms or small groups of CWS about stuttering. Your method of finding adults who stutter to Skype with is a great idea and very feasible. Thank you for your insight and suggestions!

  34. Hi Pam,
    Thank you so much for sharing your story and giving me some insight into talking with kids who stutter. Like quite a few of the people who have commented above, I am also an SLP graduate student.

    As a lover and subscriber of many podcasts myself, I loved the idea of using this medium with children! I can see students really connecting with a technology that allows them to record their own voice and edit those inputs. To what extent do you think podcasts could be used as a form of therapy for children who stutter? I read in your introduction that you hosted the podcast, “Woman Who Stutter: Our Stories.” As a podcast host, yourself, and as a person who stutters, what effects have podcasting had on your fluency? Do you see podcasting as a means for fostering positive attitudes in children about their own stuttering?

    Thank you so much for sharing with us! I look forward to subscribing to your podcast!
    Jessie

    • Hi Jessie
      I don’t think podcasting has really had an effect on my fluency. Rather, it’s really helped me to become desensitized to the sound of my voice. I think that has helped my acceptance and confidence. I believe that it would also help children who stutter. Listening to your own stuttering and learning to like it, embrace it, helps develop pride in who we are, differences and all.
      I think kids would find it cool to hear themselves interview someone else, especially someone else who stutters. Add music to it and an intro and it seems polished.

      There was a time when the simple act of recording my own voicemail greeting was torturous. I couldn’t stand to hear even a minor stutter so sometimes I would re-record it like 20
      times to get it “perfect.” Problem was, I wasn’t perfect and it wasn’t reflecting the real me on my voicemail. Thankfully I don’t do that anymore.

      Pam

      • Hi Pam,
        Thank you for your thoughtful response. That makes so much sense. One form of stuttering therapy, “Stuttering Modification,” that we’ve talked about in class has a component called “Desensitization.” It focuses primarily on what you’ve just spoke of, reducing fear and anxiety around stuttering. So it’s very poignant that you used that word, in particular, to describe it’s effects. Do you think that children have less fear and anxiety around stuttering when they speak with other people who stutter?
        ps. I listened to the first episode of your podcast. It’s great!
        Thanks!
        Jessie

  35. Hi Pamela,
    Thank you for sharing your experience. I think it’s really important for children who stutter to know/see an adult who stutters and be able to look to you as a role model and see that stuttering is a part of them but it’s not the only thing that defines them. They can be successful, and that having a stutter isn’t limiting.
    Thank you for doing that for these children! 🙂

  36. Hi Pam

    What you do for the stuttering community is so amazing and so important. I know your struggle and background, so I’m even more proud of you and for you paying to forward. You are such a role model to kids. Thanks for all you do and keep talking!

    Hugs, Anita

    • Hi Anita
      That is high praise coming from you, who also does amazing work for and with the stuttering community. Thank you for being a part of my world.
      Pam

  37. Dear Pamela
    I am a SLT student and just familiarising myself with the area of stuttering. I was surprised to read these children had not previously spoken with an adult stutterer and can see how important that is in helping them accept their stutter. I think you do a wonderful job and your article was really interesting to read. Regards Sarah

  38. Thank you all for taking the time to read my paper, write comments and ask great questions. It’s amazing what we learn from each other in this forum every year. Even though the conference is now closed, please keep reading and reflecting.
    Pam