Chamonix and I had a discussion last week regarding considerations for children who stutter in this ‘back to school’ season. Below are some of the important parts of our conversation. In Part 1, I highlighted parent-teacher and student-teacher meetings, and suggestions for the teacher.
Disclosure of Stuttering to Others
In a previous AIS Blog post, Chamonix shared that many of our past clients have chosen to self-disclose that they stutter to their class(es). Many have chosen to do this on the first day of class when students are asked to introduce themselves to the others one by one. Some have said something along the lines of, “hi, my name is B-B-Brian and I stutter sometimes, but its no big deal. I-I-I’m also a pretty good b….basketball player.” This is completely up to the child and not for everyone. Some kids would prefer to privately tell the teacher about their stuttering and what could be done to help out in the classroom. This is also self-disclosure. Children who stutter may additionally find it helpful to advertise to their peers individually, so they are comfortable speaking, and stuttering, in social settings.
Teasing and Bullying
One of the biggest concerns for children who stutter in a school environment is teasing. Chamonix and I both work to prepare families for this, and there are a few different scenarios to consider.
- When teasing isn’t teasing: perhaps one of the greatest gifts of children is their genuine curiosity. When they hear stuttering for the first time, many children will outright say something like, “why do you talk like that?” It can be helpful to prepare a school-age child who stutters for questions like this. The children that come to AIS have come up with some great ways to respond, such as “I just stutter, its no big deal,” “I stutter sometimes, so I just need some extra time to talk,” or “I was born like this, I just stutter.”
- When teasing is teasing (or bullying): This is a hefty sunject. There’s so much variation in every bullying situation and so many factors to consider. Fortunately, the National Stuttering Association has an informative book on this subject called Bullying and Teasing, Helping Children Who Stutter available for only $3. Chamonix and I both find this book very helpful. Based on our experience, we suggest that if parents see signs that bullying is occurring, they first seek to truly understand the situation before responding. If the bullying is involving physical aggression, the response will need to be more immediate and direct. Once parents understand the scope of the aggression, they should immediately talk to their child’s teacher or school administration about the best way to respond. If this is a teasing situation without physical aggression, there are a variety of options. For one, rather than punishing a child for teasing, it is often more helpful for a teacher to sit down privately with the two children to discuss the situation. During the discussion, one child would need to apologize, and the other to forgive. Simply punishing the child who is teasing may cause the teasing to worsen. For more suggestions, check out the book linked above. It’s well worth the $3!