Stutterer Wins Right to Enter NYU

ADVANCE for Speech-Language Pathologists & Audiologists

December 14, 1998

A graduate student who stutters has won the right to enter a program in speech-language pathology at New York University in New York, NY, the National Stuttering Project has reported.

Peter Reitzes, a life-long stutterer, ended a year-long fight when the university dropped a requirement that speech-language pathology students be stutter-free.

Reitzes had been accepted by the university and had begun work toward a master's degree in speech-language pathology. However, a requirement for fluent speech would have barred him from the clinical program required for graduation.

The requirement was a surprise to Reitzes because people who stutter have been widely accepted in the speech-language pathology profession for many years. In fact, some of the leading experts on stuttering treatment are stutterers, NSP noted.

NYU changed its position after Reitzes hired a lawyer and received widespread support from both speech-language pathologists and stuttering self-help organizations.

"We are happy that NYU has recognized that people who stutter should be judged on the basis of their qualifications," said Annie Bradbury, executive director of NSP. "We commend Peter Reitzes for standing up for his rights, and we are proud of the stuttering community for supporting him."

"I am glad the university changed its policy but disappointed that it took a year to do it," Reitzes said.

Woodruff Starkweather, PhD, CCC-SLP, Reitzes' speech-language pathologist and a faculty member at Temple University, in Philadelphia, PA, described the student's stutter as mild and improving.

However, the former policy of NYU required that a program candidate's speech be "free of sound and syllable repetitions, prolongations and blocks." That would have excluded Reitzes as well as many stutterers who use voluntary, mild disfluencies to manage their stuttering.

"It is generally accepted today that stuttering in adults cannot be cured," Bradberry said. "However, people who stutter can develop excellent communication skills. Our members include successful professionals and business executives, including many speech-language pathologists. We believe any requirement for fluency, without reagrd for actual qualifications and communication effectiveness, discriminates against people who stutter."

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