By Cherry Hughes, Education Officer, The British Stammering Association.
Cherry Hughes has worked in education as a lecturer, student counsellor, teacher, and Deputy Head of a school; she has been working on successful education projects for the Association for more than ten years; she has also been a Chairman of Governors of a special school and a high school. Cherry contributes to education journals about stammering and is a co-author of a book on stammering for education professionals.
This training resource on stammering provides accessible and simple strategies for teachers to support a pupil who stammers. It is an updated version of the groundbreaking CD-ROM that was produced by the BSA and sent to secondary schools in 2003.
This resource shows film of the ordinary classroom experiences of a boy who stammers during Years 9 and 10, at a large mixed high school. All the teachers and support staff use best practice in supporting him, and there are contributions from speech and language therapists and parents.
Stammering is a low incidence, high need speech, language and communication disorder (SLCN) that usually develops at the pre-school stage, and is most responsive at that time to intervention. By the time pupils who stammer reach secondary school, the difficulties they are experiencing are more firmly entrenched and are increasingly resistant to change. Unlike in pre-school children, fluency may no longer be an attainable goal. At this sensitive adolescent stage, it is even more important that the pupil feels supported by all staff. The secondary pupil who stammers is most likely to be a boy, which is why the pronoun 'he' is used throughout.
The busy secondary teacher, who may have infrequent contact with such a pupil, and needs to quickly check on how best to approach a specific classroom situation, can easily access the relevant information in this resource. As we know that stammering can undermine self-esteem and achievement and, if the pupil's needs are neglected, possibly lead to behavioural problems, the time spent going through this could be very cost effective for all staff and support whole-staff training in SLCN as recommended by the IDP and the Bercow Report to the then DCSF (now DfE) on the needs of children with SLCN (2008).
This updated version was made possible by funding from The Communication Trust (TCT), with which the BSA works in partnership. The Trust is funded by the Department for Education (DfE) and founded by BT Better World, Afasic, the Council for Disabled Children and I CAN. The purpose of the Trust is to raise awareness across the children's workforce of the importance of speech, language and communication as fundamental to academic and personal development and to have it recognised by practitioners that many children and young people experience difficulties with these skills, and have speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) such as stammering. Additionally, the Trust works to enable practitioners to access the best training and expertise to support these children and has produced the Speech, Language and Communication Framework (SLCF) in support of the training priorities of the Inclusion Development Programme (IDP), and the Bercow Report to the then DCSF on the needs of children with SLCN (2008).
Since this resource was originally distributed, the government has initiated a number of major changes to practice in schools through the IDP, and the key laws dealing with special educational needs and disability: the 1996 Education Act and the 2001 SEN and Disability Act (SENDA).
Staff can also access the online assessment and training resource provided by the Communication Trust's Speech, Language and Communication Framework (SLCF).
The BSA considers these changes to be very helpful in meeting the needs of pupils who stammer as they support both an identification of individual need and an inclusive culture in schools. These changes, together with the anticipated extension of training opportunities for education staff in SLCN recommended by the Bercow Report (2008) and followed up by the Government's 2020 Children and Young Peoples Workforce Strategy (December 2008), suggest that the needs of these pupils are much more likely to be identified and met than was previously the case. This is very reassuring to parents and professionals concerned about stammering.