DR. WALLACE: I teach high school speech and English. One of my speech students has a severe stuttering problem. I would really like to help him overcome this handicap. I have gathered some useful information, but I was told by my principal to contact you because he remembers reading about stuttering in your column. Is it possible that you might enlighten me on this subject? —Teacher, St. Louis, Mo.
TEACHER: Most of my information on stuttering comes from the Stuttering Foundation of America. This wonderful non-profit organization has an abundance of reference materials to help friends, parents and teachers with those who stutter. The following are recommendations they offer when working with someone who stutters:
—Refrain from making remarks like "Slow down," "Take a breath" or "Relax." Such simplistic advice can be perceived as demeaning and is never helpful.
—Maintain natural eye contact and try not to look embarrassed or shocked. Just wait patiently until the person is finished. You will be tempted to finish sentences or fill in words. Try not to do this. (You can relate to this one).
—Use a relatively slow, relaxed rate in your own conversational speech, but not so slow as to sound unnatural.
—Let the person know by your manner and actions that you are listening to what he or she says, not how they say it.
—Be aware that those who stutter usually have more trouble controlling their speech while on the telephone. Please be extra patient in this situation. If the phone rings and you hear nothing when you answer, make sure before you hang up that it's not a person who stutters trying to initiate conversation.
Please contact the Stuttering Foundation at the toll-free telephone number 1-800-992-9392, or email at email@example.com Write to them at P.O. Box11749, Memphis, TN 38111-0749.
I PREFER YOUR 5-5-5 PLAN
DR. WALLACE: I will be graduating from high school in a few months with high honors. My parents want to buy me a car for my graduation gift. They said they will spend $15,000 for it. Both of my parents are lawyers, so they can afford it.
I would rather have a $5,000 computer system, a $5,000 car and $5,000 in a bank savings account. They insist that I should get the $15,000 car because they don't want me to have a lot of car problems. What do you think I should settle for? —Shelby, Philadelphia, Pa.
SHELBY: If you shop around, it's possible to get a decent automobile for $5,000. I prefer your 5-5-5 plan. You are a very fortunate young lady. I wish all the teens in the world had a similar problem.
YOU DON'T HAVE A DISEASE
DR. WALLACE: I have never been able to lean down and touch my toes without bending my knees. This sounds silly, but I'm beginning to wonder if I have a disease. Is it possible? Can you touch your toes with straight legs? —Teri, Columbus, Ind.
TERI: It's possible to have a disease, but I don't think so. I'd safely say that there are many people who cannot touch their toes without bending their legs, possibly because they are overweight, or they have very long legs. I gave it a try, and I couldn't touch my toes with straight legs — but my wife can!
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.