There are many considerations for children who stutter and their parents in this ‘back to school’ season. Chamonix and I recently discussed this matter as we’ve both been addressing this issue with the children and families with whom we work. So, what can students and parents do to start out the school year on the right foot? Below are some of the major points from our discussion. Because there was so much to include on this topic, I’ve split it into two posts. Stay tuned for part two!
Meetings with the Teacher
Parents of children who stutter often find it helpful to set up a meeting with the child’s teacher in order to educate the teacher on stuttering and explain the child’s unique experience of stuttering. This is also an opportunity to give the teacher a few tips on what he/she can do to support their child in the classroom setting.
When possible, we encourage children who stutter to attend this meeting. Some children may even be willing to be the one to educate the teacher about stuttering. That is certainly not required though, as just being present during this discussion can really help the child feel more at ease knowing that the teacher has joined his team of supporters. Before the meeting, it is important to ask the child if there is anything he would want his teacher to know. This can be a great start to planning the parent-teacher meeting.
The concept of student-teacher meetings also applies to teenagers and even college students. In both of these settings, teens or college students may find it useful to privately self-advertise that they stutter and share any preferred classroom considerations briefly before or after class or in office hours.
Classroom Suggestions for the Teacher
It is critical that the child be involved in deciding what to suggest to the teacher. Some kids may prefer what seem to be very minor suggestions. As an example, a child may simply ask that his teacher be a good listener for him when he speaks, even if he is stuttering. As a result, the teacher regularly models for the other students how to respond when a child stutters. Other kids may want the suggestions that appear to be more significant, such as asking the teacher to try and ask him mostly yes-or-no questions in front of the other students so that he is able to answer with few words. For a variety of reasons, a child may not want the teacher to do anything differently because of his stuttering. That’s okay too. It may be enough to just meet with his teacher and let her know that he does stutter sometimes. At the very least, a teacher should always know when stuttering is an issue for one of his/her students.
For further guidance on this issue, the National Stuttering Association website has a page dedicated to back to school advice.