by Matthew K.

Hi, my name is Matthew. I go to the Lawrence Middle School in Lawrence, New York, and I am in the sixth grade. I have seven brothers and three sisters. My mother and father are Reina and Chris. One of my brothers died when he was only six months old. I stutter. Most of the time, this really does not bother me, but sometimes I wish I never had the problem. My speech teacher is Heather Grossman, and she specializes in stuttering. She works at Hofstra University.

On November 16, I put on a presentation in my school about stuttering so that my classmates and teachers would better understand what stuttering was all about. I worked really hard on this with Ms. Grossman and three of her students who are preparing to be speech pathologists. We started to think of the idea in the middle of October. We prepared an outline of what we wanted to do in the class session. We were going to do two sessions of about 45 minutes each. We decided that I would use the Internet to find which famous people stuttered. I found out a lot of things I did not know. For example, the guy from Star Wars, Darth Vader (James Earl Jones), stuttered. Bo Jackson, who played both professional football and baseball, stuttered also.

The day of the presentation I was shaking. I was so nervous that my hands were sweating, but I was feeling happy that this was going to happen. We worked very hard to make it interesting and to give my classmates a better understanding. But I did not know what the reaction of my classmates would be. Maybe they would say, “That was so stupid and it was a waste of time,” or they would say something nice, like, “Matt, that was great. I learned something and that was a good idea.”

These are the things we talked about in the session. We talked about how the brain functions while stuttering. We asked questions to see how much they knew about stuttering. We talked about how it felt for someone to stutter and asked how they reacted when someone stuttered. We wanted to know if they got impatient with people who stutter, and we wanted to see if they knew how to react. For example, we wanted to know if they kept eye contact or tried to “fill in words,” or if they were understanding. We gave them a Chinese “finger trap” so that they could feel what it was like to be frustrated when they got stuck. We also talked about the famous people who stuttered and many of my classmates were surprised to learn that. This was a good lesson in showing them that a person who stutters could use different strategies and techniques to handle things.

When we finished the class, everyone clapped and complimented me on the presentation. Ms. Grossman and each of her students had participated as well and they were complimented too.

My teachers said that it was very helpful and that they learned quite a bit. It ended up with people saying great things about the presentation. I could tell that they learned something. Even though I was nervous at the beginning, it all paid off and was worthwhile. I learned that people are interested, and, if you make the session fun and interesting, they will learn a lot.

I’m glad we did it, and I am very thankful that Ms. Grossman helped me.

From Reaching Out March 2005

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