As your child’s parent or caregiver, you are their champion and their best advocate! That includes talking with their teachers about how their stutter might affect them in school.
Children who stutter have the right to accommodations to help them succeed in the classroom. Talking to your child’s teachers about stuttering in general, along with what your child needs, can help them have a better experience at school. Here’s how parents can talk to their child’s teachers about stuttering.
Educating teachers about stuttering
Not all teachers have worked with students who stutter. If your child is in speech therapy, ask your speech therapist if they’d be willing to talk with the teacher.
There is also a lot you can do to educate the teacher. You can share online resources, such as:
The Notes to the Teacher brochure from The Stuttering Foundation
An important message to get across is that stuttering is a form of verbal diversity. That means it’s a different way of speaking. Stuttering is a deeply misunderstood condition, and there are many myths about stuttering, such as the following: Myth: People who stutter are less intelligent. Fact: There is no connection between stuttering and intelligence. Stuttering is not a measure of intelligence, capability, or success.
Myth: Stuttering is caused by feeling nervous or anxious. Fact: Stress, fear, and anxiety can cause tension and worsen disfluencies, or interruptions in the flow of speech. The anticipation of stuttering may also make someone feel nervous. However, anxiety and fear are not the sole cause of stuttering.
Myth: People who stutter should just speak more slowly. Fact: It’s not helpful to tell a person who stutters to “slow down.” This will often make them feel more self-conscious, leading to more tension associated with speaking. Oftentimes, disfluencies are not within a person’s control. It’s best to wait patiently, be an active listener, and allow the person time and space to speak. Myth: Speech therapy can cure stuttering. Fact: Speech therapy can help people who stutter make positive changes in their communication skills and their mindset. But there is no cure for stuttering.
Many people who stutter have been taught to avoid stuttering at all costs, so they may avoid situations in which they have to talk. That can be as simple as not speaking up in class, to as life-changing as avoiding an entire type of career.
The good news is that adults can help shape a different experience for children who stutter! Both at home and at school, the goal is to provide a safe, affirming, and empowering space for kids who stutter to grow and thrive.
Requesting accommodations for your child who stutters
As a person who stutters, your child has the right to classroom accommodations to help them succeed in school. Whether you consider stuttering a disability or not, stuttering does legally qualify as a disability, and that provides legal rights.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) states that teachers are required to provide reasonable accommodations for all educational tasks. Some examples of classroom accommodations for stuttering include, but are not limited to:
Asking that your child’s speech fluency not be a factor on any rubric or grading system
Having more time to respond to questions
Not being required to participate verbally in discussions or presentations
Requesting a smaller audience for presentations, or a one-on-one presentation for the teacher
How much your child participates in school, and whether they receive accommodations in the classroom, depends somewhat on their situation. Some children who stutter may feel anxious with speaking or reading in front of the class. In those cases, accommodations should be in place. Other kids who stutter may be happy and excited to participate in class.
Your child may also have an IEP, or Individualized Education Plan, which outlines classroom accommodations for them. You can learn more about IEPs for stuttering from The Stuttering Foundation and The Stuttering Association for the Young.
Other ways to make school easier for kids who stutter
Here are a few more tips you might share with your child’s teacher to make their classroom experience a positive one:
Never call on the student or put them “on the spot.”
Assure the entire class that they’ll have as much time as they need to answer questions. If they need more time, they can ask the teacher to come back to them when they’re ready. This is an inclusive way to provide accommodations for the child who stutters. Other kids will benefit, too!
Help all students in the class learn to take turns with talking and listening.
Keep an eye out for teasing or bullying, which affects many children who stutter.
Above all, the goal is to treat the child who stutters the same as other students, with the exception of the unique accommodations they need to succeed. Teachers should expect the same work ethic and quality from children who stutter as they do from children who don’t stutter. In that regard, children who stutter are no different than anyone else!