When I was in elementary school, there were about five students in my class that would always raise their hands to ask and answer questions. They always participated in class discussions and actually seemed to enjoy talking aloud. The rest of the class slouched in their seats, wouldn’t make eye contact, and prayed they would not be the one called upon.
Talking in class is hard enough for the average child, but for children who stutter, being called upon in class can be a nightmare. As a teacher, there are many things that you can do to help students who stutter to talk more easily, participate more fully in class, and most importantly, feel better about talking aloud. If you are a parent of a child who stutters, share this information with your child’s classroom teacher.
- Talk with the student openly about their stuttering, but don’t make a big deal about it. Ask what classroom activities are more difficult for him/her to speak in. Ask the student for some suggestions that could make him/her more comfortable speaking in class.
- Give the student who stutters plenty of time to answer questions in class.
- Don’t finish the student’s sentences or try to offer words when they are stuttering. If you guess the wrong word (or finish the sentence incorrectly), the struggle multiplies.
- Don’t tell the student to “slow down”, “relax” or “think before you try to speak” as this advice can be discouraging and keep the student from wanting to speak in class.
- Use a random method to call on students in the class instead of going up and down the rows. This wait time can greatly increase the apprehension and tension of a student who stutters.
- If a student has an extremely difficult time talking in front of the whole class, modify the activity. Don’t excuse him/her from the activity but for example, instead of having students say their speeches in front of the whole class, they can say them in front of smaller sized groups. Be flexible.
- Most people who stutter have “good” and “bad” days. If you see that your student who stutters is having a day when their speech appears easier, offer them more opportunities to speak that day and fewer opportunities on their “bad” days.
- Give the student positive reinforcement for participating verbally in class. Praise what they say, not how they say it.
- After a stuttered utterance, summarize what the student said to show them you understood, and reinforce their participation in the classroom activity or discussion (e.g., that’s a great point!).