|About 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!)
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.
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