By the secondary stage, boys who stammer will outnumber girls by as many as 5 to 1. Therefore, the pronoun 'he' is used for convenience throughout the text.
By S1, the pupil may have been stammering for many years, and hopefully at primary school was given the support that encouraged him to feel confident about his speech, and participate successfully in oral work. Nonetheless, the growing personal awareness and sensitivity of adolescence may lead to increasing concern about his speech, especially in front of pupils in the different subject groups.
Teasing and bullying is likely to be a real worry and add to this anxiety.
This self awareness and concern about the reactions of others is very likely to generate a negative cycle of worrying feelings of embarrassment and anxiety, with possible physical tension and real fear of speaking. Pupils are therefore more likely to try to avoid speaking situations and/or to try tactics when speaking to disguise the stammer.
They may also be so anxious to have their say, when they know that they can get the words out, that they do so without considering whether it is appropriate to speak at that point. This may appear as rudeness to the listener.
The negative feelings that are often present have been described as the 'Iceberg' because they are under the surface and the pupil may not be aware of them, or even if aware may still try to hide them with other distracting behaviours.
These are anger, embarrassment, frustration, guilt, lack of confidence, shame. It is important to 'look behind' the behaviour to see if a stammer may be present.
Although the teacher may see a pupil who appears to be coping with schoolwork, and whose talking does not seem to cause concern, closer monitoring should take place:
Remember that just because a child does not appear able to talk, it does not mean that he does not understand.
Children who stammer do worry about this and parents are understandably concerned. All schools follow policies to prevent this and parents and children are encouraged to report any concerns as soon as possible.
Every child needs to feel able to safely approach the teacher with a problem. However, children who stammer may have problems talking to their teacher about such an emotional issue and could be helped by strategies which allow them to give information in writing, to be placed in a 'bully box' or similar. See Bullying in this resource.
The key to preventing bullying is effective personal and social education that emphasises the diversity of the human family, and activities in PSD/PSE, Chatterbox Time, or a specific pupil self-help group for instance, can be ideal.
In some schools, pupils who feel different in some way are encouraged to give a short talk to the class to create some empathy with their feelings.
If a child who stammers has the confidence to do this with support that can be helpful. It is advisable for the teacher to consult with the parent and therapist before considering an approach to the child.
The guidance teacher, or an appropriate colleague, should discuss these behavioural concerns with the pupil to ensure that achievement is commensurate with ability.
If a stammer is suspected, advice from a speech and language therapist on how best to raise the issue would be helpful, as adolescents in particular may be reluctant to discuss it.
The aim is to establish strategies for open and supportive discussion on a regular basis between the pupil and his guidance teacher about any problems arising.