Grace having some fun at the FRIENDS Conference in 2015. FRIENDS is a self-help organization that brings together kids, teens, and adults who stutter and their families to empower, educate, and support.

Grace having some fun at the FRIENDS Conference in 2015 where she had the opportunity to meet other teens who stutter.

Hi everyone! My name is Grace and I’m so excited to be writing a back to school post for the AIS blog! I just started my sophomore year at a pretty small high school in upstate NY. There’s a little over 100 kids in my graduating class, most of whom I’ve known since kindergarten.  Even so, I’m always nervous on my first day of school. You never know how people will react to your stutter. There’s such a wide variety of responses that people can have, from laughing to ignoring it or just giving you that pitying smile, and the uncertainty of it all just adds more stress to the day.

One thing that I’ve found that personally makes me a lot more comfortable on the first day is to send all my teachers an email about a week before school starts just to educate them about stuttering and tell them how they can help me be comfortable in their class. It gets rid of some of the pressure I feel to self-disclose, which can be really hard to do in a classroom full of students on a hectic day. Another unexpected perk of contacting my teachers ahead of time was how much they appreciated it. Before I heard back from them I was thinking of the email as something I sent to help me, but when the responses from my teachers started coming in, I quickly realized how much it benefitted them too! From my science teacher: “Other teachers have mentioned this letter to me and said how much they appreciated receiving it. It really makes it so much easier for us to know what makes you uncomfortable and what doesn’t,” and my business teacher: “I would be glad to help you be successful in class. Thanks for telling me what is ok, etc. I appreciate it.” From my math teacher: “I can’t wait to meet you and soooo appreciate your open communication! Your email is so helpful!”

Stuttering is something that is hard for a lot of people to understand, and teaching them about what stuttering is and what to do when a person who stutters is talking, makes everyone feel more comfortable.

Tips for Going Back To School As a Teen Who Stutters!

1. Communicate with Teachers

Start a conversation with teachers about your stutter in the beginning of the year and regularly check in with them so you’re still on the same page about what makes you comfortable in class.

2. Advocate for Yourself

A teacher told me that fair isn’t everyone getting the same thing, fair is everyone getting what they need. Make sure that you’re getting what you need in your classes, whether it’s the option to not read out loud in class or to give presentations privately during lunch.

3. Talk to Your Friends

It can sometimes feel kind of lonely to be the only person who stutters. If you open up to your close friends and talk to them about how you’re feeling, you’ll usually find that they also have something in their life that they’re struggling with and want to talk about with someone.  
Thank you so much for reading! If anyone is interested in reading the letter I sent to my teachers this year, you can check it out at this link.

-Grace 🙂