How do I help a child in my class who stutters?

We all can think of at least one teacher who made a difference in our lives. It’s important to give the teacher of a student who stutters some tips on how to create an environment that supports the student. The Stuttering Foundation (www.stutteringhelp.org) offers great tips for classroom teachers:

  • Don’t tell the student to “relax” or “slow down.” This just increases the anxiety a student may feel when they are trying to tell you something or contribute to a classroom discussion.
  • Don’t finish a student’s sentence or put words in his mouth. Good talking manners apply to everyone in the classroom, not just the stutterer.
  • Listen to what he says, not how he says it.
  • Treat him like the other children in your class, expecting the same quantity and quality of work.
  • Respect the needs of the student by talking with him about oral speaking requirements in class. If the stuttering is mild, he might be willing to speak in front of the class. Don’t count his dysfluencies against him! If he is a severe stutterer, allow him to do the report for you individually instead of in front of the entire class.
  • Don’t talk about stuttering like it is something to be ashamed of.
  • Make your classroom a “no ridicule zone.”
Talk to the speech language pathologist who works with your student. S/he will have suggestions and offer advice about your student. Caring enough to make a few changes will go a long way to making a big difference in the student’s life. It’s important to create an environment that supports a healthy self-esteem for all students and especially those with communication difficulties.