Roberta Lees, Reader (retired), Speech and Language Therapy Division, Department of Educational and Professional Studies, The University of Strathclyde, in Glasgow, discusses issues connected with stammering:
How does the teacher react to the child who stammers in the classroom? The teacher may feel very anxious, the teacher may find that he or she is holding their breath, because this can be a natural reaction to someone stammering, they may try to finish the sentence for the child. These are all normal reactions of people to someone who stammers.
The teacher may have perceptions that the child is shy, tense, anxious, and again, this is a normal or (something) perception of people towards the child who stammers. In fact, the child who stammers is no more anxious, tense or nervous than any other child, but it's a perception that has been built up.
However, the teacher can be of enormous help to the child who stammers. If the teacher can listen to the child and listen to the content of what the child is saying and try to ignore the dysfluency that is enormously helpful.
If the teacher can also provide a good speech model to the child, and this often means an unhurried model, so that if the teacher gives the impression there's plenty time this creates a more relaxed atmosphere for the child and helps the child who stammers to speak more fluently or at least, more easily.
The teacher can also help by trying to improve the child's self-esteem, find something the child is good at and praise the child, if the child can develop a good self- esteem the child will go on to be able to communicate a bit more effectively, and if the teacher can also create a good speech environment where every child has their turn of speaking and they're not constantly interrupted in the classroom, this is also very helpful.
On a more day-to-day basis, it's useful not to ask the child to read or to answer questions very early on. If the teacher is going round the classroom asking the child to read or answer questions, the child is sitting there becoming more and more anxious as his turn is approaching, so that for the child who stammers it's very helpful to give them a turn very early on. Also, if the child can take part in all activities but with an opt-out being available if the child feels unable to speak at that time.
The child should not feel different in any way, and feel 'oh, I can't take part in that', the child should have an option of taking part in everything.
And if the child gives a long answer to a question, sometimes that long answer gets lost with all the child's dysfluency, it's very helpful if the teacher will then paraphrase what the child has said, and this adds great meaning and great import to what the child has been saying, and of course it's very important that the teacher remains calm, tries to speak a little more slowly and the whole atmosphere is calm.
If the child is aware of the stammer it is very useful if the teacher will speak to the child about it, on their own, but show the child that the child has an ally in the teacher, because if the teacher doesn't mention the stammer and sometimes the parents don't mention the stammer, a conspiracy of silence develops and the child begins to think that stammering must be something absolutely awful because no-one will talk about it.
But if the child feels that he or she has an ally in the teacher and someone they can talk to, and talk to about the stammer and the problems in the classroom because of the stammer this helps the child enormously.