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 produced the DVD, “Stuttering: Straight Talk for Teachers.” This 20-minute film helps parents and teachers understand how stuttering can affect children of all ages in the classroom and is available at most public libraries. This DVD was offered to all the public libraries in the county, and the Ladd Public Library, Neponset Public Library and Sheffield Public Library received the free DVD and agreed to shelve it.
The highlight of the DVD 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,” said Umberto, a teenager in the DVD.
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,” said 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 offered 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 DVD.
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 said. “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 said, “This DVD is an excellent resource for educators at all grade levels. I now feel more at ease having a child who stutters in my classroom.”
Books and DVDs produced by the 65-year-old nonprofit Stuttering Foundation are available free to any public library. A library that will shelve them can contact the Foundation at 800-992-9392, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.stutteringhelp.org or www.tartarmudez.org.
International Stuttering Awareness Day is Oct. 22 each year.