Helping A Student Who Stutters

Stuttering: Who does it affect?by: Lizzie Whitworth
Stuttering is a type of speech disorder, specifically, a fluency disorder which interrupts the flow of speech. Over 3 million Americans stutter – about 1% of the population. The ratio of men to women who stutter is 4:1. As many as 20% of children have speech fluency issues during their development but only about 5% of students will go through a 6 month period of stuttering. The largest cause of stuttering is genetics; about 60% of people who stutter have a family member who does also. There are a number of treatments available to help cure the condition including speech therapy.

A number of famous historical figures stuttered – can you believe Marilyn Monroe was one! Also, James Earl Jones, John Stossel, Bill Walton, Mel Tillis, Winston Churchill, Carly Simon, Annie Glenn, Nicholas Brendon, Ken Venturi, Bob Love, John Updike, King George VI — all are famous people who stuttered and went on to have successful lives and careers, some of which, where voice is an important component of the job such as John Stossel (TV news personality) and Carly Simon (a famous singer).

How to Work Best with a Child who Stutters in your Classroom:
While also Creating a Positive Classroom Environment

*Let the child know that you are aware of his/her stuttering, and you are okay with it. You are not going to judge him; instead, you’re to come up with strategies to help him.

*Reach out to your school’s guidance counselor and plan a sort of “coming out” party at the beginning of the year to introduce the child’s classmates to the condition and what they can all do to help. Obviously, plan this with the stuttering child so that you don’t go out of their comfort limits. Investing his/her classmates in the stuttering situation will make the other students feel good to know what they can do to help.

*It is very important to know what the child concerns and fears are in the classroom, specifically when it comes to verbal participation. Talk candidly and openly with the student and come up with a plan. For example, does he want to read aloud in class? If so, come up with a system where the child gives you a signal that lets you know he feels confident enough to read at that time, or agree on an order – such as, always call on that child first so there are no surprises.

*Remember: class participation components can be part of the child’s IEP – together, go over the students goals and get the child to feel enthusiastic about their progress!

*When speaking with a child who stutters, do not say “slow down” or “relax”; do not change your facial expressions and patiently wait until the child finishes saying what they are trying to say.

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