Stuttering Camp in Japan

About the presenter: Masuhiko Kawaski writes, "I am 42 years old, and I am a member of Japan Stuttering Project (JSP). I am also a secretary-general of Osaka Stutterring Project (OSP). I joined JSP 5 years ago. Until then I denied my stuttering and kept hiding it. I experienced many forms of therapy in the past, including psychotherapy, but they only enhanced my negative feelings of stuttering. When I attended JSP's meetings for the first time I even felt that it was O.K. to stutter. Since then my life changed dramatically."

Japan Stuttering Project's 11th Summer Camp For Children Who Stutter and their Parents, 2000

by Masuhiko Kawasaki
from Japan

We had the 11th summer camp on August 18 to 20, 2000. The total number of participants was 146, the biggest group we ever had during the past 11 years.

The following is an illustration of this year's summer camp.

Total number of participants: 146,
Children who stutter:40,
Siblings of children who stutter:25,
Speech therapists, including school teachers teaching special classes of children with fluency disorders:17,
University students studying fluency disorders: 2,
Adults who stutter:8,
Guest from ISA:1,
Video camera crew:2,

Place: Nature House, Hikone City, Shiga Prefecture, Japan


13:00 Orientation and Opening Ceremony, 15:00 Getting to know each other - (Shinji Ito, the Executive Director of JS) 17:30 Dinner, 18:30 Discussion 1, 20:00 Drama Performance by the staff 21:30 Staff Meeting, 22:30 Meeting for parents and staff

6:00 Morning gathering, 7:30 Breakfast, 8:30 Writing class, 10:00 Discussion 2, 12:00 Lunch, 13:00 Drama Practice 1, 15:00 Field Activity (children only), Meeting for parents, 17:30 Dinner, 19:00: Drama Practice 2, 21:30 Meeting for parents and staff, 22:30 Staff Meeting

6:00 Morning gathering, 7:45 Breakfast, 8:30 Drama Practice, 10:30 Drama Performance by children, 12:00 Lunch, 13:00 Feedback , 14:30 Closing Ceremony

JSP's basic approach to children who stutter is based on the following three facts.

  • Effective therapeutic approaches are available only for a limited number of people in the world.
  • There are some children who have been in therapy and no longer present symptoms of stuttering, but whether children have been treated or not, there are quite a few children who still stutter.
  • How much stuttering affects children or adults who stutter varies depending on each individual. However it does not correlate to the difference in the level of severity of stuttering.

In recognition of these facts, we do not focus only on fluency shaping and the cure of stuttering. We focus primarily on self-acceptance and strive to grow within ourselves and learn to live well with stuttering.

This camp is mainly organized by adults who stutter. Adults who stutter and have participated in self help group activities have the following common experiences.

  • They can now talk about stuttering in their own words, and have had their concerns and frustrations listened to attentively by other members.
  • They are happy to be able to meet many other people who stutter and to learn that they are not alone.

These insights are essential when a person who stutters chooses to live with stuttering. If a child who stutters can experience these at a younger age, the child will be able to easily accept him/herself without being affected much by stuttering. JSP has organized these summer camps for children and their parents for the past eleven years in order to help children accept themselves while they are young.

Major Activities of the Camp

As you can see in the schedule of our summer camp, there are unique activities, like discussions and drama practice. Not only children but also parents have to study a lot. Since last year's summer camp, parents also perform on the stage before children's performance. Children seem very happy to see their parents also working hard.

The following are the highlights of the summer camp activities.

Open Discussion about Stuttering

Facing stuttering does not really mean dealing with the symptoms of stuttering. It means facing how the person is affected by stuttering.

Discussions proceed focusing on the questions given to the children.

  • Do you want to cure your stuttering? If so, why?
  • Are there things you have wanted to do but have not done yet? Is it because you stutter?
  • What will you do if your stuttering cannot be cured?
  • What are your hopes for future jobs? How do you think your stuttering will affect your future?

These are significant discussions which help the children to be open about themselves as persons who stutter.

We organized six groups for children according to their age: Preschool children and 1st and 2nd graders of primary school;7 3rd graders of primary school;8 4th and 5th graders of primary school;8 6th graders of primary school;6 1st year students of junior high school;7 2nd and 3rd year students of junior and senior high school students;4

One adult who stutters and one school speech therapist joined each group as facilitators. This year, I joined the group of 1st year students of junior high school. Children in this group were serious and enjoyed the discussion in spite of such a lengthy discussion. Every child listened to other children attentively. They spoke actively because they do not usually have chances to speak about their stuttering. Even children who participated in the camp for the first time felt it was all right to stutter, because they have found that there are many children who also stutter.

Children and adults also enjoyed writing essays about their stuttering besides discussion. Children's siblings also wrote about their sibling's stuttering.

Outdoor Activities

There are some children who stutter and cannot make friends in school because they find it hard to relate to other children. Through outdoor group activities during the camp, such as walking in the woods, children learn to communicate with other children and find clues on how to relate to other people. In the appropriate environment, surrounded by the mountains and the beauty of nature, children experience direct contact with other children of the same age and different ages, as well as with adults who stutter. This environment creates a relaxed and fun atmosphere for the children.

Body Work and Drama as Expressive Activities

Children who stutter often have small voice, and their speech is often inarticulate. In addition, their bodies are often tense and inflexible. This camp also aims to build strong body and strong voice that carries well, rather than focusing on the symptoms of stuttering. The supporting atmosphere of this camp helps many children fear their stuttering less, and they feel comfortable getting involved in the drama project. By combining gestures with words, they gradually attain fluency, even though the symptoms of stuttering still remain. Drama practice helps children relax their bodies and realize their ability to shape words without much strain, producing voice that carries well. We want them to discover the joy of performance even if they stutter.

On the last day of the camp, all the children who stutter and their siblings performed drama. This is the highlight of this summer camp. When they were practicing, they could speak loud and moved their body easily. However when they performed before the audience, they became tense and they did not perform as well as they did while they were practicing. However, this is not a big problem. The important thing is that they practiced very hard and every child could speak loud even if they stuttered. They received big applause when they finished their performance.

Parent Group Discussion and Learning

50 parents participated in this camp. Shinji Ito, the leader of this summer camp as well as the Executive Director of JSP shared important information with parents and speech therapists at the meeting for parents that was held 19, Aug 2000. He said, "To attain fluency, the best way is to have a lot of opportunities to speak in every day life. When a person who stutters fails and gets depressed, the members of the self help group will listen to the person and think about the problem together. It is the role of the self help group. In our meetings we ask those who stutter if they have anything that they really want to say or anything that they feel they should speak about, not about the symptoms of stuttering. After all, the most important thing is how we can enrich our lives." As part of the program, parents also had meetings among themselves and their discussion continued long into the night. This indicates that children are not the only ones who benefit from group discussions. Parents of children who stutter have many experiences in common and feel similar worries and anxieties about the future of their children. Therefore, they found this group discussion a great help for raising children because they learned a lot from each other by sharing their experiences and problems together.

Parents also experienced assertiveness training, transactional analysis, and rational belief behavior therapy during the camp.

Special Guest

This year, we had a wonderful guest from ISA, Stefan Hoffmann. He participated in almost all the programs of our camp, and we enjoyed sharing experience and ideas with him. Stefan made a presentation about his own experience as a person who stutters and his outreach activities in China at the meeting for parents. He also joined the discussion group of 1st year junior high school students and talked about himself, his stuttering, and the process of his self-acceptance. He also asked children questions, for example, if stuttering gave them anything good. Children were fortunate to get to know him who came from a foreign country and who also stutters.Thank you very much, Stefan, for your contribution to the success of our camp.


"Now I understand I am not the only one person who stutters." (8 years old) "High school students were also stuttering, Mom. I can stutter, too, can't I?" (7 years old) "My feelings about stuttering changed. Now I don't feel depressed. I learned a lot from stuttering. Now I appreciate my stuttering." (10 years old) "Before I attended the summer camp, I was ashamed of my stuttering. When I arrived at the camp site, I felt relieved to see many people, not only children, but adults who were also stuttering. When I said to other children that I was ashamed of stuttering, they said ' So were we! '"(8 years old) "When I was in the second grade, other kids often teased me about my stuttering. They imitated my stuttering. I used to go home crying, but I learned it's O.K. to stutter when I attended this camp when I was in the third grade. Now when other kids tease me, I can talk back to them, `What's wrong with stuttering?' (10 years old) "The happiest thing of this camp was that I didn't mind stuttering in front of other people. It will still be a little difficult to say that I stutter to my classmates, but in the near future, I think I can say that." (15 years old)

The message that it is all right to stutter certainly has been passed on to the children. Through learning to accept their stuttering, children learned to deal with stuttering in constructive ways, even if they are still picked on at school.

Because participants who stutter range from primary school to high school age, parents of the children who stutter are able to attain a concrete image of their own children's future through contact with adults who stutter. For example, some parents had thought their children would not be able to become teachers or salespersons because of stuttering. Their interest had been only in the cure of stuttering. However, by talking to adults who stutter and live with positive attitudes, they were able to envision a more concrete, positive image of their children in the future. One father said, "Before I came to the camp it was very difficult to see my son stutter, but now I don't feel it so difficult." Many fathers participated in this camp, and their participation meant a lot to their children and helped their family members to have better understanding of stuttering.

We do not deny direct approaches to speech disorders. We believe they are very important. However, in our case, we focus on speech through expressive activities, using our voice a lot, not focusing on the symptoms of stuttering. We think it might have adverse affects on children just to try to eliminate their stuttering or reduce symptoms of stuttering. The harder we try we might make children deny not only their stuttering but themselves.

Here is an essay written by a 9 year-old girl, whose name is Miho.

"I have many friends, but the best friend is a girl who I met at the last summer camp. Her name is Yuki. She also stutters like me. She was the first person who understood me very well. However, we can meet only once a year, at the JSP summer camp." On the way home from the first summer camp, Miho and her mother talked openly about her stuttering for the first time. Her mother could say to Miho, "It is all right to stutter."

However, when Miho went back to school, Miho was the only person who stuttered at school. Her mother was worried if her words "It is all right to stutter" were any help for her. During the next term Miho ran for the president of the student's council, and she was elected. Her mother admired her courage , but Miho said " I shouldn't become the president, because I'm sure I will stutter in front of all students when I introduce myself." Her mother answered from the bottom of her heart " Even if you stutter, nothing is wrong. You are great because you wanted to be the president. Even if you stutter, you are still wonderful." Her mother recalls and says," It was only 3 days that Miho was with Yuki, but this experience still gives her lots of emotional support."

These are the results of the camp, achieved by the people who stutter, school teachers who teach special classes of children with fluency disorders, and professional speech therapists who worked as staff for this project.

August 30, 2000