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Lucy has just joined the school a few weeks before in Year 9, and is obviously reluctant to join the other girls at break time when they invite her to do so. She seems eager to accept the teacher's suggestion to go into the classroom but does not answer clearly, just nods in reply. This is a polite response and may be a perfectly reasonable personal choice, or there could be other reasons for which Lucy needs support.

Evidence from schools and speech and language therapists is that girls are more likely to successfully hide their stammer by just appearing quiet and withdrawn. As long as academic work is being completed, and there are no behavioural traits that cause class management problems, it is tempting for staff to allow the girl to 'quietly get on'. This could mean that an underlying problem is not addressed.

Best practice is to monitor the progress of new pupils and report any concerns to the appropriate member of staff, perhaps the form tutor, Head of Year, or Senco. In fact, in filming 'In the Senco office', this teacher was observed discussing her concerns about Lucy. The possibility of a communication problem, perhaps a covert stammer, was discussed for further monitoring and possible referral to the speech and language therapist.


  • Advice may be sought from the speech and language therapy service, if a communication problem is suspected.
  • Girls are more likely than boys to appear withdrawn, when they are really covering up a stammer.
  • When all staff are alert to communication problems, such as stammering, they can react to covert behaviours that may indicate a problem.

This teacher notices Lucy is quite withdrawn and later talks to the SENCO about it