How to Help Children Who Stammer/Stutter
Updated: Nov 4
Stammering (or stuttering) is considered to be a neurological condition which makes talking fluently difficult for some people.
A stammer can consist of repetitions or elongations of single sounds, whole words or even sentences, or it can cause the person to get stuck on sounds or words. Repetitions may sound like "I I I need to get the toy..." "when when when am I going home?". Elongations of sounds can occur in phrases such as "Sssssebastian took my toy" "I need to ffffinish my puzzle".
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, tired 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.
For many children, stammering typically begins between the ages of 2 and 5 years, although some people develop a stammer later in life.
Children 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.
How can you help them?
Below are some strategies from a list which I give to the schools and preschool settings I work with to help them to support students who stammer or stutter. 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.
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.
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?
If you have a child in your setting who has developed a stammer, try not to worry. Make sure you keep these strategies in mind and talk to the parents/carers to share information.
Don't try to finish their sentences for them or hurry them along.
Don't tell them to slow down or take a deep breath.
Many young children aren't even aware of their stammer so try not to bring attention to it.
Be patient and reassuring. Praise them for all of the things they can do to boost their esteem.
Do you need to train your staff?
I've created a course for adults working in educational settings to learn about stammering in more depth, know some of the red flags to look out for and when to refer to a Speech & Language Therapist. Click here to find out more about the course.
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