Stuttering: Straight Talk for Teachers
When teachers hear a child stutter, the immediate reaction is one of concern mixed with a host of urgent questions:
· Should I call on the student in class, or will that only make it worse?
· How should I handle teasing and bullying by other students?
· What should I do about reading aloud in class?
The Stuttering Foundation has a 20-minute video free online, Stuttering: Straight Talk for Teachers, at www.stutteringhelp.org The film helps parents and teachers understand how stuttering can affect children of all ages in the classroom and is also available at most public libraries in DVD. Some libraries have the older video version.
The highlight of the film is the children who discuss their experiences in the classroom and share what was helpful for them. “Even when I knew the answer, I wouldn’t raise my hand because I was worried about what others might think,” says Umberto, a teenager in the film. He added that giving a classroom presentation on stuttering to the entire class has made him feel more at ease. “At the beginning of the school year, I was embarrassed to read aloud in front of my teacher and friends because of my stuttering,” says Kate. She worked with her teacher to make a plan about how she could practice first at home and then individually with her teacher. Martin offers a different perspective. “I feel confident and even though I might mess up when I talk, I’m not ashamed. I still want the teacher to call on me even though I might be having a bad day.”
Noted speech-language pathologists Bill Murphy, M.A., of Purdue University and Kristin Chmela, M.A., of Northwestern University present practical strategies teachers can use immediately to help children feel more comfortable talking in the classroom. “The courage and honesty of the children sharing their experiences helps teachers find solutions for the children in their class,” says Lisa Scott, Ph.D., of The Florida State University and co-producer of the film.
At school, children who stutter often face bullying and teasing. This treatment by other students sometimes causes more anxiety than does the speech disorder itself. “Even the children who receive therapy to help them speak more fluently continue to have negative feelings as they grow older,” Murphy says. “Their ability to communicate is still hindered by the shame and embarrassment they feel about stuttering, which is often brought on by teasing.”
Murphy suggests teachers make stuttering an open topic for discussion in the classroom. One exercise a teacher can use is to discuss famous people who stutter. NBA basketball star Kenyon Martin, news anchor John Stossel, and actors James Earl Jones and Nicholas Brendon are just a few of the many celebrities who struggle with stuttering. A list of famous people who stutter and a downloadable poster can be found at www.stutteringhelp.org.
Elementary school teacher Katie Lenell says, “This film is an excellent resource for educators at all grade levels. I now feel more at ease having a child who stutters in my classroom.”
The DVD, offered free to all public libraries, comes with a 32-page handbook of information and resources. A library that will shelve it can contact the Foundation at 1-800-992-9392, or visit www.stutteringhelp.org or www.tartarmudez.org