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Teacher's perspective

Parents, speech and language therapists and young people frequently tell the BSA that many subject teachers are simply not aware that one of their pupils stammers. This may lead staff to underestimate the ability of a pupil who stammers and lower their expectations of his potential, so that underachievement results.

Many pupils in a large school, who stammer, simply live in fear of being put on the spot by a strange adult who does not understand that they stammer and reacts with irritation or worse when a question is not answered. Add to that, the perpetual adolescent fear of being shown up in front of the peer group, and the possibility of living in a permanent state of stress, with all its negative implications for achievement and behaviour, is clear.

Undoubtedly, there is a difficulty in communicating information about the individual to a large number of teachers, particularly if they deliver a subject module that only involves a weekly lesson, or less, or are substituting for another colleague. As it may be impossible in these circumstances for the teacher to actually remember the individual pupil; there must be a general awareness among all staff; including support staff, that a communication difficulty may be present. The good practice of asking for volunteers to read, and avoiding direct requests for names and/or information, will prevent some of the worse difficulties.

The regular subject tutor is able to get to know the pupils and read any information disseminated. The challenge is to ensure that the student who stammers is included in all oral work. In the clip the teacher is aware that Matthew may have days of more severe stammering but still includes him in questions, by asking a closed question, only requiring a one-word answer.

In the video clip Matthew is joining in reading a short passage of content and the other pupils are attentive. Their attitude is crucial in the management of stammering as any negative reactions would instantly be apparent to Matthew, and would affect his confidence. Teacher scanning of the class and an instant follow-up on any unacceptable behaviour are essential, as a pupil who is different can be quickly marginalised and become a victim, so that severe bullying may develop.

The teacher's concern about the new pupil, Lucy, who seems withdrawn, and his intention to gain more information might eventually reveal the presence of a stammer, as girls are often very good at hiding this by quietly getting on with work and not attracting attention.

Summary

  • A whole staff awareness policy on stammering should support the student and build confidence so that he does not underachieve.
  • Teasing and bullying should be instantly responded to as schools require in their policy.
  • The possibility of a stammer causing secondary behaviour like withdrawal or challenge should always be considered.

This subject tutor is alert to Matthew's speech needs