Chapter 11: Learning to Let Go

This chapter is an update on where Katherine is both professionally and personally. Professionally she launched a cell phone recycling business with Jeremy. They are living in Brooklyn and she is feeling “finally comfortable”. She began working with a start-up company that “wants to make it easy for everyone to learn anything from anyone”. With this, Katherine signs up to be a public speaking teacher! AMAZING! She shares that after many years of watching people speak it has paid off and she is ready to share this knowledge. Katherine recounts a story of an interaction she had at an event related to this new adventure. She tells of a woman who thought Katherine was using stuttering as a “shtick” to help people get over being nervous and awkward. Katherine, after battling her own emotions on the topic, eloquently agreed that the woman was correct “it is my shtick, it is what I do best”. I think this is a big development in how Katherine feels about her disfluencies. Personally, she talked about interviews and public speaking events (specifically at a friend’s birthday party and with a group of undergraduate SLP’s) that helped bring her to this “shtick” realization: thinking of stuttering as being terrible or funny; how it feels for the listener when they speak to someone being disfluent; that the challenges of stuttering are hard to convey; and that overall her happiness is not dependent on her fluency. I think all of these ideas pull together to define her “shtick”.

Katherine’s final message is that our weaknesses, whatever they may be, do not diminish us. In fact, they draw people in.  I think for Katherine, learning to let go means…. learning to not see her stuttering as a weakness. I don’t think this means giving up on being more fluent, but ultimately ‘giving up’ on letting stuttering define HER. Isn’t that what we want for all of our students?

Amanda Piekarski, Lowe Elementary



Spotlight On:

Jennifer McDonogh

I recently visited Jennifer at Wilkerson and she was showing me her “speech cart.” I was so impressed I asked her to send me a brief description and some pictures. I thought you all would like to check it out too! Jennifer says:

Traveling Cart for Preschool and Self-Contained Students…

This idea came from Jenna Rayburn – Speech Room News (See SLP Traveling Cart Tour).

It helps keep materials organized and ready to go from group to group.

The cart is from Staples

Outsides of cart:

Side #1:  Black Pouch – Holds snacks or treats

Pencil Pouch – Attached with Velcro; holds pencils, pens,

glue sticks, etc.

Side #2:  Outside colored pockets – from Walmart; attached with

Velcro; holds various picture cards; small books. I have

written kids’ names on pockets if there are specific materials

I want to use.

Side #3: Easel with schedule for preschool or to hold worksheets and

activities such as file folder games

Inside cart:

Three magazine files – from Staples (cardboard Bankers Box).

One magazine file holds laptop & my lesson plans/EdPlan notes.

Second magazine file holds Big Mac switch and treasure box for small pics.

Third magazine file holds “I am working for….” reinforcement board; Communication Binder; artic worksheets; activity worksheets; small games (like Chipper Chat)

In the bottom of cart I have wipes for sticky fingers and tissues for all things preschool.

The only thing that is missing is a drink holder for Diet Coke!

Veteran’s Day

Veteran’s Day is coming up next weekend (11/11) so I thought it would be a great time to share some materials related to the holiday.

This is a short passage with picture supports made with “Picture It” software and here are instructions for making a Patriotic wreath(also made using “Picture It”).

I have used this little book several time and have some activities related to it:

However, I can’t seem to find any more copies, and really don’t even remember where I got it. SO….If you would like to borrow mine, let me know! 🙂

How are your kiddos learning about Veteran’s Day?

Chapter 10-Role Models

Today’s chapter post is a little different from most weeks because we have two people for the same chapter. I thought it would be interesting to see if people had similar thoughts and take-aways or if view-points would be very different. See what you think:

Kristin @ Watterson Elementary says:

This chapter opens with Katherine’s arrival at the National Stuttering Association’s (NSA) conference. At the convention, Katherine runs into many familiar faces. She also meets new people who stutter and feels “a deep sense of comfort that is rarely sustained in the grittiness of the real world.” Katherine no longer dwells upon her speech and whether she will stumble. How wonderful that must be to have such an amazing support group where everyone understands and accepts you. Some proclaim that the conference is the highlight of their year. Powerful! This makes me wonder if our students (and/or parents) are aware of resources available such as Are we as therapists intentional about providing our students and families with resources?

Katherine maintains that she did not have any stuttering role models growing up. She has come to realize after interviewing so many individuals, however, that stutterers can indeed be confident and strong. Actresses, singers, nurses, writers and everyday people have come to be inspirational to her. She suspects that for journalists specifically, “writing is a necessary outlet for our screaming internal dialogue.” Have your fluency students expressed a desired career path? Has this been something you have discussed with them during therapy? By the conclusion of the conference, Katherine had traveled over a year interviewing over one hundred people. It was time for her to return to her family’s home in Cape Cod to beginning writing herself.

Initially, she begins her book recounting each person’s story while slipping in pieces of her own journey along the way. She desired to be “nothing more than a shadowy narrator.” As her piece progresses, Katherine resolves to write her book as a memoir. She recalls throughout her life how she wanted to hide her stutter. At this juncture, however, Katherine believes if she “went public with her stuttering, she might be able to invite others to embrace whatever weakness they were dealing with.”

The chapter closes in an emotional fashion as Katherine’s parents praise her courage and express their loyalty and support in her writing as they read her draft. She anxiously awaits her parents’ response to the tough question she posed to them. Katherine is relieved and comforted in knowing how her parents truly felt about her stuttering as it was not a subject that was ever discussed. While they had been concerned about her self-confidence and happiness, they were never embarrassed by her, yet always protective. Both Katherine and her parents conclude that it was each other’s strength that carried them. They sat, hands together, smiling. Although there had been rough moments growing up, Katherine’s parents indeed were her role models. Have you discussed role models or influential people in your students’ lives? I am curious about their responses and explanations!

Lisa Ehrie at Alex R. Kennedy and Jtown Elementary says:

This chapter begins with Katherine attending the National Stuttering Association (NSA) Convention. She was in awe as she listened to all the conversations in the lobby and around the hotel. Katherine said that she couldn’t hear a fluent word anywhere and that she felt she had walked into “…an alternative universe where stuttering was the norm”.  It was interesting that even though Katherine had done many interviews and was deep into her book project at this point, she still had not been with this many people in one place that stuttered. She was fascinated by it and she found a deep sense of comfort that she had rarely found anywhere. She shared several quotes from people who also felt that the yearly conference was a place where stuttering was accepted and reminded people who stutter that they are not alone.

This led Katherine into thinking that she had not really had a stuttering role model growing up. Through her interviews at the NSA convention, Katherine had the revelation that stutters could be strong and confident and could be the “quintessential heroes” that she had in her mind. Katherine went on to share that she had found that so many professionals actually use stuttering to their advantage. Their stuttering had made them more compassionate, understanding of adversity in others’ lives, maybe less intimidating.  Stuttering often made people have a unique and deep appreciation of words and language. I loved hearing that, because as SLPs I think we share that love of words and language too.

At the end of the chapter, Katherine returns to her family’s home in Cape Cod. She began reflecting on her parents and how her stuttering had affected them. She realized she had not ever asked them directly how they felt about it. Her parents both said they were often concerned but that they were never embarrassed. They knew she would keep fighting to become who she wanted to be. Katherine finally realized her parents were her true role models. Katherine seems to have almost come full circle on her journey with stuttering and has gained so much insight and confidence. She also realized that she wanted her voice to be heard in the book, so she decided to change it to a memoir. Deciding to share her life and her personal struggle with stuttering shows just how much her life has changed since those days as a mortified 10 year old who had a “stammer”.

What are your thoughts?