Supporting Students who Stammer
Updated: May 20
Stammering (or stuttering) is considered to be a neurological condition which makes talking difficult for some people. A stammer can consist of repetitions of single sounds, whole words or even sentences, or it can cause the person to get stuck on sounds or words. Sometimes a stammer can be a complete block where no words or sounds come out.
Stammering can affect people in different ways and be worse or better in different situations, for example a stammer may be more evident if the speaker is nervous or excited. There is no link between stammering and intellectual capacity, and there are many ways in which a stammer can be supported and treated.
Pupils in the UK can be supported by a Speech and Language Therapist to identify their type of stammer and occasions when it is better or worse. For some therapy can be beneficial to learn and develop strategies to overcome their ‘bumpy talking’, for others support in home and school environments will be the best way of helping them.
The British Stammering Association has a wealth of information on their website www.stamma.org and includes advice for people who stammer, parents and teachers.
Below are a list of strategies which I give to schools and teachers I work with to help them to support students who stammer. You can download a PDF of this list for you to save and share with your team here.
Listen to what the pupil says and not how they say it.
Try to use the same eye contact as you would with a fluent student and resist the temptation to guess the word or to finish the sentence.
Give them extra time to talk if they need it. If you ask a question, wait for an extra couple of seconds to give them time to reply.
Slow down your speech and try not to rush. This will help the student to find a slower pace with their talking.
Allow the pupil the opportunity to put their hand up in class and offer answers by slowing down the rate of your speech when you ask the class a question.
Encourage everyone to take turns to talk so that the pupil is not under pressure to say their ideas quickly before someone else interrupts.
Use good talking strategies: face the pupil when you are talking to them, try not to be distracted by other things so that he feels rushed to tell you what he needs to.
Boost their confidence by praising them for all the things they can do.
Arrange a one-to-one session to acknowledge the problem and to discuss alternative strategies which might be helpful for reducing pressures in areas such as registration, debates or presentations.
Try to be flexible about oral tasks/exams - are there alternatives? Does the task have to be given a time limit? Does it have to be in front of a large group?
Share information amongst teaching staff, particularly as students transition to a new class or school year. Keep cover and supply teachers up to date with information too.
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