My Sixth-Grade Classroom Presentation on Stuttering

cahalan.jpeg About the presenters: In April of 2003, Autumn Williams and her Speech Therapist, Joanie Cahalan, gave a presentation on stuttering to Autumn's 6th grade class at her elementary school. Autumn's mother attended the presentation at school, and took pictures of her daughter's courageous and very successful workshop. Currently, Autumn is in her 8th grade year at a middle school. She has a new Speech Therapist, and remains diligent about continuing her therapy. Autumn has stuttered since she was 3 years old, and has received speech services since Kindergarten. Joanie Cahalan had the opportunity to be Autumn's therapist for only her 6th grade year. Joanie continues to work at Autumn's elementary school. One of Joanie's greatest joys is working with children who stutter. The following is a discussion that Autumn and Joanie had about a month after Autumn's presentation in May of 2003.

My Sixth-Grade Classroom Presentation on Stuttering

by Joanie Cahalan and Autumn Williams
from Nebraska, USA

J= Joanie Cahalan, SLP
A= Autumn

J: Autumn, what was your main reason for wanting to do a classroom presentation on stuttering?

A: Because all my life, I've been teased about stuttering, and I just couldn't take it anymore. And for once, I didn't want to be teased.

J: Why did you think that this would stop the teasing?

A: Because the kids would know more about stuttering and how it works. They wouldn't be confused.

J: Tell me what happened during the preparation for your presentation.

A: First, I had to talk about what I wanted the class to hear me say--what my thoughts were. My class really needed to hear what my feelings were.

J: You wanted to give them facts about stuttering but you wanted them to know how you really felt about it, because you're the one who has to live with it.

A: And then me and you wrote down and read facts about stuttering. We looked in a book and it told us how to actually have a presentation. It told us how we could get it done by talking about famous people who stutter and facts about stuttering.

J: Did we practice at all?

A: Yes, we practiced a lot in speech class. And then when it was time for me to go, I took the cards with me up to my classroom and I studied and I showed my mom. And, the day of the presentation, I ate my lunch in the classroom with Mrs. Cahalan and my teacher. After lunch my mom came in. I practiced in front of her and when the class came in, I was all ready.

J: Were you ever scared or nervous about doing it?

A: Yea, I was scared and nervous because I didn't know if the class would laugh at me because of what my thoughts were. And sometimes I wanted to say " I don't want to do this presentation anymore."

J: I never knew you felt that way.

A: I didn't say anything because we were already preparing. We were almost already done and I didn't want all of that to go to waste.

J: Do you know how much courage you had?

A: Yea.....a lot!

J: So how did you feel when it was all over?

A: I felt that it went really well, because everybody was listening and they were all looking at their sheets of paper (with facts and famous people). When they were asking questions, they asked really tough ones. It made me feel that they really wanted to know about stuttering and that they really understood it. At the end, when everything was done, they gave us a big applause and when I was going to my seat, they were all going, "Good job Autumn! That was really cool. I liked that. Good job!" I feel my mom liked it too because when I got to her, she was all, " You did really well, Autumn!"

J: So what good came out of doing it Autumn?

A: I feel that the good that came out of it was people respect me more. They actually know about my stuttering and they don't help me with my words as much as they used to.

J: And you notice that difference? It's been about a month now since we did this.

A: Not a lot of kids make fun of my stuttering anymore. I haven't stuttered a lot. People notice that. They always go, "Autumn, you don't stutter a lot anymore." Since that presentation its just been a breeze because I used to be scared of talking in front of other people.

J: Does fear of talking to people make your stuttering worse?

A: Yes, I have to say so because if they heard me stuttering, I didn't know what they would say to me. I thought they would think in their mind, "She must have a weird talking problem, or she must be handicapped."

J: What feeling do you have that helps your stuttering? Do you feel more confident?

A: Yes, I feel confident, comfortable. I feel a lot happier since that happened. I'm not yelling at a lot of people because they make fun of my stuttering. This is probably one of the best years for me. All the other years I've been in school, nobody knew about the stuttering and so they kept on making fun of me.

J: Any other reasons for wanting to do the classroom presentation?

A: Well....I actually wanted to be called on in class more.

J: And how do you think this presentation helped that?

A: When we were saying, "I can speak for myself" and, "It helps if you don't finish my words". That's what helped it.

J: And you wanted your teacher to hear that. Would you have been too nervous to tell her that yourself?

A: Yes.

J: If you could give any advice to any other girl that is thinking about giving a presentation on stuttering, what would you tell her?

A: I'd say, "Go For It!" Don't be nervous in how you think that your class will act because usually they'll be interested in what you're saying. And after it, you might get a little respect.

August 31, 2004