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Reflections on Stuttering: Notes from a 5th Grade Classroom

Updated: Feb 23, 2021

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” – Aristotle

Last week, I had the opportunity to present to a 5th grade classroom about stuttering. And this class was unique in that they took the time to send in personal thank-you letters the very next day. Rather than describe their sentiments, here are a few of their written notes: “I did not know that Albert Einstein was a person who stuttered! And it is also useful that I should not try to finish people who stutter’s sentences. I try to finish my mom’s sentences (and sometimes get them wrong). And she does not stutter.”

“I had no idea that Tiger Woods stuttered! My dad stuttered when he was in 3rd and 4th grade. I am surprised that some people who stutter are very good at speaking!”

“My favorite fact is that Emily Blunt and Ed Sheeran stutter. Who knew! I also can’t believe Albert Einstein stuttered!”

“I didn’t know that 1% of the population stutter! Also, it’s crazy to think Joe Biden stutters as well.”

“I feel this is going to help me know what to do if I meet a person who stutters. So many things I learned!”

“One thing that was interesting to me was that Samuel L. Jackson has a stutter. And I won’t rush my cousin (who stutters) and I won’t try and finish her sentences.”

"One thing I learned is that Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) has a stutter.”

"If we meet someone who stutters we know how to react and speak in a way they won’t get overwhelmed with.”

“I learned so much. I learned that more boys than girls have problems with stuttering. Another thing I learned is that you…can find ways to make it better and work through it.”

There are always a few things that seem to resonate with the kids. They especially love to hear about famous people who stutter. They also express joy about learning how to be an ally to people who stutter.

Whether the audience is a group of adults or 5th graders, I often hear the same questions about stuttering: “What causes stuttering?” “What exactly is stuttering?” “Are there things that make stuttering easier? Is there a cure?” All of these questions will be tackled in future posts and have also been addressed on the “Helpful Information” page of our website. But this last question is probably the one I get the most: “How should I respond when I meet someone who stutters?”

The best advice I can give?

You should never rush or interrupt a person who stutters. If you are wondering what else should I do? Following the advice on this pamphlet, entitled “Allies” from the National Stuttering Association (NSA), is a wonderful place to begin. It outlines how to demonstrate respect and support for people who stutter. The NSA is just one of several fabulous organizations dedicated to providing resources about stuttering.

The best resource of all?

Listening firsthand to the personal experiences of people who stutter. I will be highlighting more personal stories from people who stutter so please stay tuned.

Final note—when I speak to classrooms full of caring students, I envision a world where there is no more stigma about stuttering. And I believe that education is the way to break this stigma. It is clear to me that after learning about stuttering, the students walk away with hearts full of empathy and a determination to share their newfound point of view. They remind me that we are never too old to learn and widen our circle of compassion and understanding.

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