Casual encounters with teaching or support staff in the corridors, or ancillary areas, often cause distress to children who stammer, as they are expected to talk to adults who may assume that they can do so easily.
Occasionally, their failure to reply may be seen as rudeness and a complaint may even be made to a class teacher. Some pupils may get a reputation for misbehaviour and start to live up to that if they feel that their needs are misunderstood.
All teaching and support staff should be included in basic training so that they are alert to the possibility that a child may stammer and have the knowledge to give support. This requires a whole-staff training policy for teachers, assistants, clerical, dining room, library staff, janitors and cleaning staff, and volunteers working with the children.
The dissemination of confidential information about the needs of an individual pupil is a decision for the school and the parent, after some discussion with the child, if he is aware of his stammering. As long as informed consent is given, the individual child will feel more supported if he knows that all the adults he sees daily understand his speech needs. Each contact can then boost the child's self-esteem.
Children who stammer should be expected to behave as politely as others do but the acceptance by all staff for every pupil of alternative methods of communicating should be emphasised. Greetings should be acceptable when offered by gesture, nodding, smiling, as well as conventional speaking. Gestures, such as pointing to food in the dining- room, or to an individual library book should be permitted. PSD/PSE programmes could be developed to include these issues and develop an understanding and acceptance of diversity.
When an activity is organised by the school, even if it takes place off the premises, parents have the right to expect that the needs of their child will be met as if still in the school itself. When school staff are fully responsible for the event then that is simple to ensure.
However, the BSA is very aware from callers to its Education Helpline service that considerable distress is often caused to children who stammer when the event takes place off the premises and includes adults from another school or organisation.
In these circumstances the school attended by the child who stammers should have a strategy for ensuring that any adult with a responsibility at the event is able to meet the needs of all their pupils.. This may mean working with participating schools, organisations and the relevant adviser from the local authority to ensure consistency of approach.
For children who stammer any risk assessment prior to an event should take account of their communication needs and a strategy may be worked out for this by talking with the parent, the child and the therapist if one is involved.
As many children who stammer may find it difficult to speak in a new environment, particularly if excited by taking part in an event, it may be helpful to consider providing them with a 'communication card' to explain the speaking difficulty and allowing the use of gestures or, if not an emergency, a written request to an unfamiliar adult. In the inclusive classroom there may be other pupils for whom this should be considered.