The ABCs of Stuttering
Top Five Questions Teachers Have About Stuttering Courtesy of the National Stuttering Foundation
Here are the top five questions teachers ask us:
1. What should I do when a child stutters in my class?
Be a good communicator yourself:
- Keep eye contact and give the child enough time to finish speaking.
- Try not to fill in words or sentences.
- Let the child know by your manner and actions that you are listening to what she says – not how she says it.
- Model wait time – taking two seconds before your answer to a child's questions – and insert more pauses into your own speech to help reduce speech pressure.
- Do not make remarks like "slow down," "take a deep breath," "relax," or "think about what you're going to say, then say it." This kind of advice is simply not helpful.
2. Should I call on the student?
It's always best to check with the child about what he would like you to do. Children vary greatly in how they want their teachers and peers to respond.
One child may want his teacher to reduce her expectations for his participation, calling on him only if his hand is raised or allowing him to take a pass during activities such as round-robin reading. Another may want to participate fully.
3. How should I handle teasing by other students?
Deal with teasing of a child who stutters just as you would with any other child who is being teased.
- Listen to the child and provide support right away. Don't dismiss it with a remark such as "Everybody does it."
- Discuss problem solving and coping strategies for teasing and bullying with the child. These strategies may also have been a part of speech therapy.
- Educate others. Talk with the class about teasing and bullying in general. The child who stutters is probably not the only one being bullied.
4. What should I do about oral reports and reading aloud in class?
Help make oral reports and reading aloud a positive experience for the child who stutters. Together, you and the child can develop a plan, considering:
- Order – whether she wants to be one of the first to present, in the middle, or one of the last to present;
- Practice opportunities – ways he can practice that will help him feel more comfortable, such as at home, with you, with a friend, or at a speech therapy session;
- Audience size – whether to give the oral report in private, in a small group, or in front of the entire class; and
- Other issues – whether she should be timed, or whether grading criteria should be modified because of her stuttering.
5. Where can I find out more information about stuttering?
The Stuttering Foundation is a great resource. Celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, the Foundation is known internationally for the quality of its resource materials available to the public – free streaming videos, downloadable books, brochures, newsletters and referrals through its website www.StutteringHelp.org as well as its toll-free helpline: 800-992-9392. There is a section on the website dedicated just to teachers: www.stutteringhelp.org/teachers.
Jane Fraser is president of the Stuttering Foundation and co-author of If Your Child Stutters: A Guide for Parents, 8th edition. She is also vice president of the Action for Stammering Children, Michael Palin Centre in London.
Malcolm Fraser, a successful businessman who struggled with stuttering, established and endowed the nonprofit Stuttering Foundation in 1947. The Foundation provides free online resources at www.StutteringHelp.org for people who stutter and their families as well as support for research into the causes of stuttering.