9/14/14

Classroom Presentation

           One of my courageous students presented  a slide show about stuttering to his 5th grade class.  I admit that I  was slow to  assist him in this ambitious project.  I expected his good intentions would  languish on  a wish list. Then he showed me a YouTube video he wrote and directed.  Here was proof that he was  a persistent  and competent young man, very likely to pursue any project to completion.

Wondering what my role would be, I recalled seeing an interview with Bill Belichick, coach of the New England Patriots football team. He said  quarterback Tom Brady knew it all and studied hard. He asked Coach Belichick so many tough questions that coaching him was very challenging. How was I going to coach my talented 5th grader?

I already had a few links to accounts of other children who  had spoken to their classes. [1] But I surfed the "just for kids" section of the Stuttering Home Page looking for inspiration.[2]  I chose only two articles in order to  prepare a thoughtful lesson within a week. This kept me occupied during a long, snowy evening.

I happened to be learning about Google tools and writing a talk for speech language pathologists at a nearby school.[3] I was multi-tasking in researching for my student' s assignment and for my own.  I found two YouTube videos to learn the basics of Google Slides.  One featured a teacher apparently in his home office. He spoke in a soft voice with the sweet sounds of a happy toddler in the background. Another YouTube video, this one intended for small business owners, gave  me a few more helpful tips. Im grateful to these two people who were so generous in sharing their knowledge on the internet.

The  two articles I chose from the Stuttering Home Page were written in very different styles. I read one written by Dr Bill Murphy called Class Presentations for Children Who Stutter. [4] It had an academic attitude and tight structure. It opened  with a premise followed by a lengthy list  of serious content. I took my time reflecting upon the parts of the article consistent with my clinical experience. How could this academic content  translate into a message my young student could quickly absorb?

The other article was FRIENDS Presentation Guide by John Ahlbach.[5] It had emotion,  intuition and humor. It affected me more now than when I read it many years ago. It suited my situation perfectly. John knew a child's perception of the world. His article addressed a  question hugely relevant to the child who stutters: Is it a good idea to hide ones' stuttering? The article  grabbed the readers attention immediately by proposing the issue this way: What if our hair turned green periodically? I read John's article with gratitude and a smile. It had the down-to-earth, friendly attitude I needed. It buoyed my spirits and gave me the energy to return to Dr. Murphy's article for more content.

            Brave children have taught others about stuttering in very public ways. Nate has a recent podcast Stuttering advice for parents, siblings and teachers at Stuttering is Cool[6]. He has a video of a recent class presentation[7] and one from four years ago[8].  (Also, take a look at Parker Mantells 2014 Commencement Speech.[9]) My student, his mother and I watched Nates videos during a speech therapy session. Nates model was absolutely priceless.

The final product was a true collaboration. Per his request, I emailed my template home for him to review and edit. [10] He deleted several of my slides and added his own. This entire process, which busied us for several sessions, fulfilled the requirements of a comprehensive treatment approach. We reviewed cognitive and affective components as we talked about what to put on each slide.  The behavioral goal (practicing speech change)  was satisfied as we rehearsed  the presentation. Im sure this project could meet requirements within the Common Core as well.

 Rehearsal was more difficult than I expected. My student began by denying any need to practice.  Consequently, I needed a way to transition from Nates videos to the present moment. So, I stood up and pretended we were in a classroom and that my student and his mom were students.  I made eye contact, resisted time pressure, reduced speaking rate slightly, paused at phrase boundaries, and talked. Yes , it was pretty humbling to stumble my way through this exercise. But perfection was never the goal. It was more important to have some fun with public speaking.  

            We made videos with my phone. I reviewed only three slides for Take 1.  I smiled alot  and played around with impromptu commentary. After giggling over the results, our attitudes brightened.  We used moms phone to video Takes 2. This time, I added loose, easy voluntary stuttering and modification techniques. I  held up a brochure about famous people who stutter and announced that everyone would  take one home. I had a laminated a poster of the movie The King's Speech[11] to hold up high for the entire class to see that I was in excellent company! My easy repetitions and mild blocks did not accompany any negative affect nor interrupt the flow of information. At this point in the session, my student was experimenting with the slow-motion feature and which made my videos became downright hilarious.  I thought this was a terrific because the project was no longer terrifying. It was great fun.

 Nate's YouTube video showed classmates asking questions.  We brainstormed around this possibility. Mother typed all of this into her laptop for future reference. I was delighted to watch mother and son work together. What success!



[1] J. Butler (8/26/13) Back To School Preparations for Children Who Stutter http://butlerspeechtherapy.blogspot.com/2013/08/back-to-school-preparations-for.html
[3]  J. Butler (3/8/14) Workshop Slides pdf  https://sites.google.com/site/judithvbutlermaccc/home/free
[4] As I edit this blog post on 9/14/14, I find that the link to Bill Murphys article is broken. The same content appears on the Stuttering Foundation site in the article  Teaching Others http://www.stutteringhelp.org/teaching-others
[7] Nates Stuttering Presentation with Questions (Nov. 30, 2013) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0kxyzOxY3o
[8] Stuttering Presentation (May 8, 2010) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KKG2UM_5F_Y
[9] 2014 IU Commencement Speaker: Parker Mantell   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTRAripodJY#t=154
[11] Stuttering Foundation , code 0074 www.stutteringhelp.org
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.