Editor’s Note: Autumn Williams, fought some deep fears to give a presentation on stuttering to her sixth-grade class. Her speech-language pathologist, Joanie Cahalan, interviewed her about the experience a month or so later. We obtained this article from the ISAD On-line Conference.
“Do you know how much courage you had?”
“Yeah . . . a lot.”
Joanie: Autumn, what was your main reason or wanting to do a classroom presentation?
Autumn: 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.
Joanie: Why did you think that this would stop the teasing?
Autumn: Because the kids would know more about stuttering and how it works. They wouldn’t be confused.
Joanie: Tell me what happened during the preparation for your presentation.
Autumn: 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.
Joanie: 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.
Autumn: And then you and I wrote down and read facts about stuttering. WE looked in a book and it told us how to actually make a presentation. It told us how we could get it done by talking about famous people who stutter and facts about stuttering.
Joanie: Did we practice at all?
Autumn: 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. The day of the presentation I ate my lunch in the classroom with you 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.
Joanie: Were you scared or nervous about doing it?
Autumn: Yeah, I was scared and nervous because I didn’t know if the class would laugh at me because of what my thoughts were. Sometimes I wanted to say to you: “I don’t want to do this presentation anymore>”
Joanie: I never knew you felt that way.
Autumn: I didn’t say anything because we were already preparing. We were almost ready, and I didn’t want all of that to go to waste.
Joanie: Do you know how much courage you had?
Autumn: Yeah . . . a lot!
Joanie: So how did you feel when it was all over?
Autumn: 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 round of applause. And then, when I was going back to my seat, they were all going: “Good job, Autumn!” “That was really cool.” “I liked that.” “Good job!” I felt my mom liked it, too, because when I got to her, she was all, “You did really well, Autumn!”
Joanie: So what good came out of doing it, Autumn?
Autumn: I felt that the good 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.
Joanie: And you notice that difference? It’s been about a month now since we did this.
Autumn: 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, it’s just been a breeze because I used to be scared of talking in front of other people.
Joanie: Does fear of talking to people make your stuttering worse?
Autumn: 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: “S
he must have a weird talking problem, or she must be handicapped.”
Joanie: What feeling do you have now that helps your stuttering? Do you feel more confident now?
Autumn: Yes, I feel more confident and comfortable. I feel a lot happier since I did the presentation. I am not yelling at people anymore because they make fun of my stuttering. This is probably one of the best years for me. All of the other years I have been in school nobody knew about the stuttering and so they kept on making fun of me.
Joanie: Any other reasons for wanting to do the classroom presentation?
Autumn: Well . . . I actually wanted to be called on more in class.
Joanie: And how do you think this presentation helped that?
Autumn: During the presentation, when I said, “I can speak for myself,” and “It helps if you don’t finish my words,” I think it helped get that message out.
Joanie: And you wanted your teacher to hear that. Would you have been too nervous to tell her that yourself?
Joanie: If you could give advice to any other boy or girl that is thinking about giving a presentation on stuttering, what would you tell him or her?
Autumn: I’d say, “Go For It! Don’t be nervous about how you think your class will act because usually they’ll be interested in what you’re saying. And after it, you might get a little respect.”