We may not know all the reasons for stuttering, but one thing’s for sure—children who stutter want to be heard!
People who stutter want to express themselves, but sometimes fear of potential embarrassment can overwhelm them. Luckily, movies like “The King’s Speech” and celebrities such as Lazaro Arbos from “American Idol” have put stuttering in the spotlight and can help inspire our kids. Together with information offered by the Stuttering Foundation on its website and in books, videos and conferences, the increased attention can help our students tackle the emotional side of stuttering and learn how stuttering can affect their lives in a positive way.
I am lucky that my school allows me to work once a week with a group of students who stutter. We work voluntarily during lunch time to tackle some of the emotional issues related to stuttering, with support from Margarita Torres, a student teacher from Adelphi University. I intend for the sessions to operate much like a support group—a forum in which students can discuss their feelings and thoughts about stuttering. I have tried to adapt desensitization and acceptance approaches outlined in Peter Reitze’s book “50 Great Activities for Children Who Stutter: Lessons, Insights and Ideas for Therapy Success” as I work with the students.
The group consists of two fifth-grade girls, a fourth-grade girl, a third-grade boy—and a fourth-grade boy who does not stutter but is friends with the other group members. One day as we were eating lunch and talking about famous people who stuttered, I shared with the group the story of Lazaro Arbos’ audition on “American Idol.” We showed the students the video and discussed his performance.
A few minutes later, one student broke out into song! He sang only one line, “I got the bounce like Darth Vader,” to the tune of Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger.” We all giggled and were impressed with his musical talent. That one line stuck with me and my student teacher. Then I remembered the New York City United Federation of Teachers Speech Improvement Chapter’s Better Speech and Hearing Month Contest. My student teacher Margarita Torres, the students and I worked quickly to create a music video to submit for the contest.
The March 15 deadline was approaching fast and meeting once weekly was not going to be enough. So we decided to meet three times a week and work on modifying the rest of the song’s lyrics. We changed the lyrics to include information about stuttering (for example, famous people who stutter, including Darth Vader), tips for others when speaking to people who stutter, and feelings about stuttering. The group did an amazing job memorizing and working on the lyrics, and the script before the music video discusses why speech therapy is important.
Hopefully this experience has taught the students that being a person who stutters does not limit their potential. It only can enhance potential.
Kelly M. Enamorado, MS, CCC-SLP, is a bilingual speech-language pathologist at Public School 36 in New York City. She can be reached at Kenamorado@gmail.com.