Friendships at school and at home are very important to the growing child. A child who stammers may find it hard to approach other children and join in the general chat of the peer group and so teachers and parents should take care to encourage them to mix. This needs to be done subtly so as not to cause even more difficulties.
Most young children have a best friend, and friendship arguments often take up a lot of staff time. It is important that the child who stammers is not left out of this stage of testing and trying out relationships, and he may need some tactful support. In school the support and understanding of the friendship group is vital to developing the confidence in talking of the child who stammers. Without that, the child can become fearful of talking, isolated from the others and in some cases has been known to harbour self-harming thoughts.
Vulnerable children can sometimes drift into friendships that make them feel good because a stronger character may stand up for them. This needs to be watched so those models of confrontational behaviour are not copied as a means of deflecting embarrassment about the stammer. Boys especially may gain comfort from joining in with the more disruptive pupils in the class. Some children who stammer have resorted to the Internet to make friends and parents should carefully monitor this surfing
Even young children may make contact by phone, and children who stammer often have problems with making calls. It seems that the recent craze of text messaging, e-mailing friends and using social networking sites has been very helpful to many of them. It helps them to keep in touch, but should only be a starting point for communication in speech. Teachers and parents do need to monitor these activities as much as is possible and appropriate as occasionally vulnerable children whether they stammer or not have been harassed or bullied on social networking sites, or drawn into meeting undesirable people.
It is important that supervising staff monitor behaviour and intervene when a concern arises. Lucy, who stammers, appears to be 'left out' by the other children.