Chapter 7

The chapter begins with the introduction of Anne; a speech therapist who leads speech therapy courses using the Starfish program. Katherine is desperate to find fluency again after a difficult phone call at work that ends with her crying in the bathroom. Anne is described as a speech therapist that is different from all of the rest. Katherine asks to return to the course as a “refresher” in hopes of becoming more fluent. At the beginning of the course Katherine remembers that all of the “first timers” are video recorded while speaking to document their “before” strategy. I found it interesting how Katherine describes how much she and the other clients dread being recorded. I know that I record some of my students and play it back for them, especially my articulation clients who are having trouble carrying over their sounds to conversational speech. I wonder now if they dread hearing their voices and mistakes as much as Katherine describes. Another piece from this chapter that stuck out to me is how Anne describes stuttering: “You don’t have a disease. You have a habit, and we can change habits.” What did you all think about this statement? It really made me think, and I’m not sure I agree with it. To me, a habit implies something that can be changed whenever the person puts forth enough effort. I think of habits like picking your nails or clearing your throat before you talk. Something if you try hard enough, you can never do it again. Stuttering isn’t like that. Even people who use perfect strategies all of the time will have moments of dysfluency in their life. I almost believe the strategies used to create more fluent speech would be better described as a habit. What do you all think?

When Katherine exits the course she describes herself as “cockily fluent.” We have seen this before with Katherine, which almost makes it even harder to read. I am cheering for her and hoping she is able to remain fluent but also waiting to see if her old speech comes back.

I love the quote from Dr. Yaruss that “change only happens when fear of staying the same is greater than pain of staying the same.” I love this quote for so many reasons. First, as a speech therapist I have found myself sometimes wanting success for students more than they want it for themselves. That is always a difficult situation because if they aren’t willing to change- therapy is no longer useful. I also feel like this quote applies to everyday situations as well such as living a healthy lifestyle, creating good habits, etc.

The end of the chapter concludes with Katherine deciding what she wants to do with her life, and that is write a book about stuttering. Hence, the book we are reading. J She is prepared to leave everything she knows to move to America to research about stuttering and write a book in hopes to find the cause of stuttering and hopefully a cure. At this point of the book I am so excited for her and have so much admiration. I could never imagine dropping everything in my life and moving to a different country. How brave of her! I am excited to see what she learns.


Sarah Crady, SLP at Kenwood Elementary


Materials Monday

In addition to adding a SPOTLIGHT ON the first Monday each month, I thought it might be beneficial to try out  MATERIALS MONDAY. So, the third Monday each month I will share a quick post–from either myself or one of you that tells about some sources for materials that may be helpful!

Today, Courtney Brock (SLP at Shelby Elementary, Barret Traditional Middle and St. Joseph’s Children’s Home) says:

I just discovered this website and it is wonderful!!  Please share with others!  You can watch videos, listen to auditory books, read books to students and create quizzes.  Loving it!
The best part is, it’s totally free for educators!
Have you used Epic!? What is your favorite feature?


Today, Holly Hamill shares some more monster themed ideas! She says:

Here is an activity you can share on the blog that goes along with using more books during therapy.  In this story, the monsters collect all kinds of spooky ingredients to make monster stew.  It is great for making predictions, pulling out vocabulary words, rhyming, articulation targets and more!  I use this particular book with my self contained units.  We read the book together and then create a recipe for our own monster stew.  You may want to modify if you have squeamish kiddos.  My unit is 3rd-5th graders for the most part. Here is my recipe:
2 lbs. of bug guts (hamburger w/ chili powder mixed in)
2 32 oz. cans of blood (tomato sauce)
2 cans of eyeballs (chili beans)
2 cans of chopped fingers (petite chopped tomatoes)
1 box of worms (cooked spaghetti)
1 dash of magic powder (salt, pepper, onion powder or any other seasoning you may want to add)
Directions: Get a large pot and heat bug guts over medium high heat until cooked through.  Add in blood, eyeballs and chopped fingers.  Once heated, add the worms and magic powder.  Cook for an additional 15-20 minutes.  Serve with sour cream, shredded cheese and crackers.  Enjoy!
While going over the recipe, you can talk about how lbs. means pounds and compare different measurements listed.  It is also a great way to talk about how a recipe looks and the language that is used.  This activity is great for sequencing!!!  I bring in my large crock pot from home and make the “monster stew” first thing in the morning letting it cook until lunchtime.  When I return for my speech lesson, the class writes their own recipe – sometimes the teacher can use this as a “how-to” writing piece. Most students LOVE that we are using gross ingredients and it goes well with the Halloween theme.  However, some of my students use candy and other creative ingredients for their recipe.   When the stew is ready, we eat as a class and describe the stew.  We are sure to invite the primary self contained unit, office staff, assistant principal, counselor and principal.  Remember to check for food preferences (vegan, etc.) and food allergies.  Some parents cannot believe their child actually ate the chili, saying, “They never eat that at home!”.  It is so funny!
Not only is this book full of articulation and language enrichment, it is a great way to do some team building with your ECE staff.  Nothing brings people together quite like food.  This activity has become one of my students’ favorites over the years.
Holly Hamill – Wilt Elementary
Thanks, Holly!

Chapter 6

I loved the opening of Chapter 6.  Katherine’s voice, at least in writing, is super Snarky.  I’m reminded of her complaint in an earlier chapter about how hard it was to tell a funny story or joke.  I wonder if snarky one-liners became her solution.

In the story of her first journalism gig, Katherine focuses on how very poorly her first interview goes, but the Rod-Stewart-interview-death-spiral is not her only conversation at that event.  She also engages in lively and successful banter with the well-connected art dealer and his fabulous friends.  This will be the defining problem of her early work life.  The conversations that matter most to her will be the ones she is least capable of, and the conversations that go badly will be the ones she focuses on.

The question she keeps revisiting: Are others judging her harshly because of her stuttering or is she creating this judgement inside her own head and projecting it on her communication partners? Throughout this chapter, both things seem to happen, but she is about to embark on job interviews, it is hard to imagine a judgier batch of conversations.

Once Katherine lands the jobs she focuses on how minimize job-based talking. Others would be focusing on securing their desired position and climbing the company ladder.  Then, because of stuttering, she switches career paths.   It is hard to imagine a career path that doesn’t involve at least some high-stress speech situations.  That is, in fact, what Katherine finds.  In this chapter, Katherine discusses how people who stutter choose and keep or don’t keep their jobs.  For some, stuttering is the most important factor, for others, it doesn’t seem to be a consideration.

I have a coworker who stutters.  A significant part of her job involves cold-calling people who don’t particularly want to be reached.  She is quite good at finding people and getting them to attend ARC meetings, but the phone calls clearly take their toll.  Her dysfluencies are not typically noticeable throughout the day, but when she’s on these phone calls, the silent blocks seem to fill our small office and she pounds the desk to get through words.   It all seems like so much struggle for her, so much extra work, but when people ask her about her favorite part of the job, it is these phone calls she points to.  She likes empowering parents to participate in their child’s education.  And she’s good at it.

But why would anyone choose a job that is clearly so hard for them to do?

Have you, as a speech therapist, ever been asked to weigh in on a career decision for a student that stutters, by either the student or his/her parent? I thought it was interesting that Katherine seemed to think that “Speech Therapist” was an unusual job for a person who stutters.  I have found that to be somewhat common, and easily explained— like the number of resource teachers with learning disabilities.

In addition to talking about the job-hunt, Katherine also discusses this time in her life as a transition away from safety.  I had never before considered how difficult the transition from university to work would be for a person who stuttered.   Throughout Part One of this memoir, Katherine has described transitions from smaller schools and smaller circles of friends to larger ones.  Going off to university, Katherine had to figure out how to communicate successfully with a lot of new people, but to a certain extent, she treated this as a selection process.  If someone reacted badly, she didn’t talk to them again.  Eventually she had developed a circle of friends she could speak with “safely.”  Work would be different.  Every day there would be a new person, boss, client, or co-worker that she had to speak with, and frequently the conversations

would be inherently judgmental or competitive.  It is no wonder that this transition to work life lead her to seek out clinical assistance for her stuttering.

When you are working with fluency clients, do you target those transitions from grade school to middle school, middle school to high school, high school to college?  What activities do you use? What topics do you address? Do you address the transition at the end of the year, just before it happens; or at the start of the year, while it happens?

Chris Scally, SLP at Peace Academy and Waller-Williams

Chapter 5

In this chapter, Katherine meets the teenage milestone of learning the “art of flirting”.   While this is a difficulty skill for any teen to learn, she really paints a picture of how difficult it can be when you stutter.  The chapter opens with one such example, where she was at a bar with friends, and she was approached by a boy, who initiated a conversation with her.  He greeted her and then followed up with asking her name.  Knowing that she would stutter on her name, she tried to be evasive, but then ended up lying and saying her name was Samantha.  After that, she awkwardly ended the conversation and returned to her friends.   As a reader, I really got a sense of how difficult such a situation would be when you are afraid to speak.

Katherine stated, “As a woman I quickly realize that flirting was part of my arsenal.  It is a survival skill.  No one hands you a guide-book on your fifteenth birthday.  They should.”  She learned that talking is a huge part of flirting, and as a stutterer, she had to develop her own ways to interact with boys.  She found that if she asked questions to keep a boy talking, she could just interject the occasional gesture or word to keep the conversation going.  And when that technique failed for any reason, she would go to plan B: having a drink, which helped her to speak more fluently.

When Katherine entered college, she encountered many situations that she found difficult due to her stuttering.  She did not want people to see her fears and insecurities.  She wanted to be viewed as intelligent and normal.  Here in college, she learned how to find the right people to be her friends.  Katherine also found a man who was not bothered by her stuttering, and she fell in love.  She felt that being in a relationship proved that she was someone that could be loveable.  It made her feel like she was more like everyone else.  They eventually broke-up following two years of a long-distance relationship in which they had to communicate entirely by phone (also tremendously stressful for someone who stutters).

It was after the break-up, that she has a pivotal moment in her life.  She asked him his feelings about her stuttering.  While he said that it didn’t bother him, he told her that his friends had expressed surprise that he would date a stutterer.  Up until that point, she truly thought that people could hear her intelligent comments, witty banter or funny jokes and just forget that the stuttering occurred.    This was it though… the world did see her as a stutterer, and that realization made this one of the worst moments of her life.    When I read about this experience, I could feel her pain coming to this conclusion in a single moment.  It had been her worst fear, what she had spent her life trying to avoid, and she had failed at that.  She says, “He had confirmed that I was broken and that my greatest weakness was visible for all to see.”

Erica Hayes, SLP at Dawson Orman

Wild Things

Today, Chris Scally shares her very CUTE idea for using Where the Wild Things Are:

Purpose and Implementation

This material is for use in October in conjunction with Where the Wild Things Are. BEWARE! This is VERY Cute!

The primary function of this material is for SORTING. I designed them as an EET activity for organizing items by group and visual features (I have small objects and craft supplies that I use as sortables, but 1” laminated pictures would work as well. ) The feet Velcro on so that I can change it up.

I will also use them as a way to “cute” up articulation drills. I will also modify the sorting activity so that students are using subjective and objective pronouns (We made boy, girl, and animal Wild Things to cover the pronoun bases), verb tenses and complete sentences to describe what the Wild Things want, like, eat etc.

Credit Where Credit is Due

Dawn Leftwitch and Janet Spencer, both JCPS OT’s, gave me the idea, and found instructions and examples for me. Because of the way that the “Wild Things” open their mouths, this activity works on hand strength, hand eye coordination, and bimanual dexterity. So BOOM! Both those bird never saw that stone coming! (and we made extras to share with Dawn and Janet.)

Professional Growth Goal— Cuteness.

During the 2017-2018 school year, I will increase student engagement, using a hot glue gun to design activities that are Super Cute. I will increase my skills and knowledge in this area by joining Pinterest and collaborating with my teenage daughters, who are very crafty. Measures of success length and loudness of the “Awws,” I get when people see my materials, and distance of spilled glitter from craft table after one month.




You can find some additional monster themed activities here and here.

What fun, timely activities are you using in your speech room this fall?

Chapter 4: Tactical Warfare

The chapter opens with Katherine standing in the middle of an auditorium preparing to complete a monologue.  She contemplates running out the nearest exit, before she decides to take a deep breath and begin.  She proceeds, almost losing herself in her words, and other than a few minor stumbles is able to make it through feeling as if she has talked for hours, but ends feeling good about herself and her performance.  As she ends, the examiner simply asks her name, which was unexpected, and she found herself back in her body as she repeated “KKKKKKK Ka Ka Ka Ka” several times before being able to get her name out as “Katherine”.  The examiner was fully attentive to Katherine at that moment and inquired further on why she would want to choose a monologue.  She answered saying it was about the challenge and only being reliant upon herself, when in reality it was so she could have the control over the words that she spoke.  There was not going to be the uncertainty that comes with back and forth conversation, or what her partner would say or ask next.  She also went on about her thoughts mentioned that if she were to do terribly, at least she would be on the stage by herself with just the examiner vs. other peers.  After the examiner stared at her for a minute, she went on to say how “courageous” she was and mentions that she has a “severe disability” and commends her for continuing to “live her life”.  At that moment, Katherine does not know if she should be happy with herself for possibly obtaining a pity vote or to be repulsed by her responses.

She goes on to talk about her unsuccessful bouts of speech therapy over the years and how her fluency would present one way in a therapy room and then when she would be back in reality, the strategies would no longer be as effective. She goes on to talk about how denial became her way of life.  She went into the mode of having three tactics that helps her get by.   First one being that her intelligence and personality were going to help her compensate for her stutter and help others “forget” that it exists.  The second tactic was talking with an accent.  She found herself fluent when speaking with an accent, but knew there were only certain contexts where this was appropriate.  The third tactic was having a “collection” of words that she relied on to avoid a moment of stuttering.  She references her stutter as a separate entity multiple times, with it being something that almost haunts her.  Even though it haunted her, she was able to sustain a small group of close friends that never mentioned or discussed her stuttering.  This helped her feel normal and build confidence.  Her friends were able to strategically help her in particular situations without even discussing it.  The chapter ends with her remembering a time before class where her and other students were sitting around talking about an “epic” party that they had just gone to a few nights before.  They were all rehashing the night when it came to the moment where she was to tell of a specific incident.  Katherine went through her story engaging her friends and other classmates.  She finds herself approaching the funniest part of the night when she gets stuck. She backs up, friends and peers still engaged, and tries once again.  She is able to finally get out the punch line, but notices that she missed her opportunity.  She lost the rhythm and excitement that was involved and even though her friends laughed, she knew that there were others snickering to one another.  Even though she moved past this moment, this was an event that she never forgot.

In this chapter, I really began to identify her stuttering as another person or even a monster.  She continually tried to not let her stuttering be something that defined her.  She worked hard in school, had friends and even tried to be an athlete to avoid being the pun of jokes, but it was never enough.  She always found herself trying to “defeat” the stutter.  She would find success with one tactic and then realize that there are going to be moments where whatever tactic she has “up her sleeve” it will never be enough.  The heartbreaking recall of her speech therapy memories had me continually thinking about how some of my past students or clients have felt.  The moments when we believe we are “breaking down walls” or “making gains” and we instill confidence in our students, just to find out that later they experienced the “monster” of stuttering once again feeling completely alone.  She went on to mention how much she avoids talking or engaging in conversations around her because of the fear of if she will stutter or not.  How many of you see your students doing these sort of things in school?  I cannot help but think of the older students and the impact it has on them socially and how much they have to plan and think about every little comment they are going to say.  I was constantly thinking about how when I am with friends, the banter, the back and forth joking and all the carrying on we do and how effortlessly we do it.  Not that childhood stuttering is not hard enough, but what are the differences between your young and older students who stutter?  How does it impact their confidence?  Are they social or keep more to their selves?


Lindsay Manis, SLP at Churchill Park Pre-School