SLPs Who Stutter
Making a difference through advocacy, education and support


ADVANCE for Speech-Language Pathologists & Audiologists

August 7, 2000
Volume 10, Number 31

by Peter Reitzes


During the Annual Convention of the National Stuttering Association in the summer of 1997, approximately 25 students who stutter, speech-language pathologists who stutter, and friends met for breakfast. We discussed issues particular to students and professionals who stutter.

At the time I and several other students were being treated unprofessionally and with discrimination by our various departments because we stutter. Two of us had been told that in order to receive a Master's degree from our respective universities we would have to be completely fluent i.e., we were required to no longer be stutterers.

Another student had been told by her practicum supervisor that stuttering while administering therapy was not acceptable. That's like telling a wheelchair bound student that she must stand and walk across the stage in order to receive her diploma.

Many of us who attended this meeting needed to continue discussing our experiences, our fears, and our triumphs as people who stutter in the field of speech pathology. A listserv was born.

Soon members started posting questions such as "What do I do if a parent doesn't want me to work with her child because I stutter?" and "My supervisor wants me to read standardized tests faster even though she knows that I stutter, how should I respond?" Serving as a crisis-line for students and SLPs who stutter, members of our group offered courage and inspiration with responses such as "I stutter and just graduated with my masters degree, you can do it, too" and "I'm an SLP who stutters and have been working in the field as an effective clinician for 20 years. It's up to you to educate your supervisor."

This group, now called SLPsWhoStutter, meets annually at the National Stuttering Association's summer convention. Among our members our students who stutter, speech-language pathologists who stutter, and our friends. We support each other through our listserv, by phone calls, and when we meet at conferences.

This past year SLPsWhoStutter has decided to take on an advocacy agenda. We have begun the task of raising money to contribute to the defense fund of the Birch Tree Foundations. This fund will be used to support people who stutter who find that they are being discriminated against or are involved with the law in criminal or civil cases. We felt that the relationship between SLPsWhoStutter and the Advocacy Committee of the Birch Tree was a perfect marriage.

Many people need to be educated about the extraordinary professional contributions made by speech-language pathologists who stutter, both currently and in the past. The Advocacy Committee of the Birch Tree Foundation has available material that describes the many accomplishments, honors, and contributions of speech pathologists who stutter.

In addition to its Legal Defense Fund, the foundation is actively seeking out attorneys who would donate time to discuss potential cases of discrimination.

Defending oneself against discrimination is hard work. The Advocacy Committee of the Birch Tree Foundation provides people who stutter with options to face discrimination. The slogan of the National Stuttering Association, a self-help group for people who stutter, is "if you stutter you're not alone." The Birch Tree Foundation has taken this slogan to heart, acting on the belief that "if you are discriminated against because you stutter, you are not alone."

The Advocacy Committee also is interested in contributing to professional standards with regard to the training of speech-language pathologists who will work with stutterers.

A few years ago the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) altered its standards to allow the Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC) to be earned without ever having taken a stuttering course, without taking coursework in stuttering or providing stuttering therapy.

SLPsWhoStutter believe that these new standards are inadequate and are misleading to the public seeking treatment for stuttering. A speech pathologist should know more about stuttering than a lay person, and a school speech therapist should be required to have some exposure to stuttering therapy. We are interested in influencing speech department policies regarding the speech of people who stutter. The Birch Tree Foundation and SLPsWhoStutter are seeking to change this thinking through advocacy, education, and support.

In addition, the Advocacy Committee of the Birch Tree Foundation will respond to the needs of individual stutterers in a wide range of situations, from insurance reimbursement, referral of stuttering speech therapy specialists, and professional and ethical issues.

For more information about SLPsWhoStutter, contact Lucy Reed at (856) 784-7549 or by email:

Peter Reitzes is co-chair of the Advocacy Committee of the Birch Tree Foundation. He can be contacted at (718) 788-8656 or via email


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