I recently came across an article written in the NY Times about a student, Philip Garber Jr., and his experience with a particular college professor at the County College of Morris. The article, Professor’s Response to a Stutterer-Dont Speak, highlights how Garber was asked to hold questions for the beginning and end of class so he “does not infringe on other students’ time.”

He was also asked to respond to questions on paper, rather than raise his hand like the rest of the students. He advocated for himself to the dean and was transferred to another class, where he is now able to speak freely.

Although this is quite an extreme situation and there are many wonderful teachers that are very sensitive to the needs of students who stutter, this article still brings up the importance of educating teachers on stuttering. Like parents, teachers are often trying their very best, but quite simply may not be aware that some things they are saying or doing are, in fact, not helping at all.

Here are some tips for teachers:

1. Contact the school’s speech pathologist or parent. If you notice disruptions in the child’s fluency, do not ignore it. If you’re noticing it, chances are the parents are noticing it too and will respect your efforts to address it with them.

2. Do not say “slow down”, rather slow down your own speech by inserting more pauses.

3. Do not complete a student’s sentences. This may indicate you think they are unable to complete it themselves, or you may not complete it in the way they intended. This may cause unnecessary pressure of correcting you. Just wait them out, keeping eye contact so they know you are listening.

4. Discourage interrupting. Easier said than done, but be cognizant that increased time pressure triggers disfluencies in a child who stutters.

5. For the child who is aware of their stuttering, approach them about it in private. Often students want to talk about their stuttering with their teachers, but are too nervous to bring it up on their own. Let them know that stuttering is okay and that they should be comfortable talking about it with you. Let them tell you how best to assist them and find out situations that worry them the most, so you can, as a team, develop accommodations that are fair.

6. Be alert and handle teasing right away. Talk to the student about how the teasing makes them feel.

7. Collaborate with the speech pathologist. If your student is receiving speech services at school, see if you can sit in on part of a session and have the child teach you the techniques he/she is learning.

8. Do not ask students to use techniques/strategies unless told to do so by the speech pathologist, especially strategies you have come upon in your own research. Stuttering treatment is a process and the child may not be ready to use their strategies in the classroom setting.

9. Some common classroom accommodations may be:

— Allowing for the student to practice or make presentations before/after class with only the teacher present. Slowly build up to making presentation with friend present, small group, etc.

— Giving the student the option of what order in which they are to be called on. Some PWS may prefer to get it out of the way so they do not have sit and wait for their turn, whereas others prefer to be called on later. This applies to roll call/attendance as well.

On days that the child is having a “bad speech day”, word questions so that they are more close-ended, or allow student to initiate participation themselves. Do not excuse students from participating all together, however it is okay to give them a break on days you see they are particularly frustrated.