“Take out your books and let’s take turns reading aloud …”
is a phrase that will probably always conjure a stomach turn. I can remember specific times in school where I felt so overwhelmed with anxiety that my only goal was to “survive,” pushing learning to the back burner. I would scan ahead when we were reading aloud, perfectly plan my “bathroom” visits, enter into a coughing fit prior to answering a question, or would even act as though I did not know the answer so I didn’t have to endure the embarrassment of stuttering in front of my teachers and classmates.
Truth is, in hindsight, there are a lot of things that I could have done to advocate for myself (or my parents for me if I did not feel ready for it), but I lacked information and direction at the time. It was also a slightly less accepting world back then and I’d like to think today’s world is a little more knowledgeable about stuttering, or at least more aware and accepting of differences overall. Stuttering continues to be stigmatized and largely misunderstood but this misunderstanding does not appear to be malicious in most cases. It’s been my experience that people quickly adjust, are eager to learn how to best support, and are intrigued to learn about the intricacies and nuisances of the stuttering experience when given the opportunity.
What are our Goals?
Our number one goal is for the child, teen, or adult to feel comfortable being themselves, to be able to say what they want to say, when they want to say it, and to feel relaxed and able to prioritize learning rather than being overcome with anxiety related to stuttering and communication. Good news is, there are lots of resources out there to help kids, teens, and parents accomplish this and make the school environment much more comfortable and stutter-friendly. The bad news is, there is also a ton of misinformation out there and it can feel overwhelming to sift through the endless internet results.
Below is a list of resources we chose (it was hard to pick just 12!) to help you navigate the school setting and stuttering through education, advocacy ideas, handouts/ printable materials, inspiring stories, and words of wisdom from people who stutter themselves.
Above all else, the most important thing to convey to both teachers and classmates is to listen to what the person who stutters is saying rather than how they’re saying it, regardless and most importantly beyond how fluent it is.
- Straight from kids and teens: information and advice for teachers, and two amazing podcasts: here and here.
- Straight from Parents
- Handouts for teachers from SFA: 8 Tips for Teachers and Note to the Teacher: The Child Who Stutters at School
- Stuttering 101: Here and Here. Watch this short animation video too.
- Must Read Printable Resources: “Parent Pledge,” “Stuttering is…,” and “What Kids Have to Say.” Other printable brochures at NSA and SFA.
- Help kids and teens write a letter to their teacher, here’s a guide–if possible, we feel it is so much more powerful and meaningful for kids and teens to educate teachers and peers themselves
- Consider giving a classroom presentation, more information about that: Here and Here.
- Did you know that there are stories of people who stutter succeeding in just about every profession? Listen to two doctors who stutter: here and here, a Colonel in the military, an MIT graduate, an aerospace engineer (there are lots more!!).
- Information to help navigate Reading Fluency Tests in school: Here, and Here, and Here.
- Minimizing Bullying and Teasing for Children who Stutter
- One of our favorite articles for parents. Remember, it’s NOT all about the Fluency. Discusses the importance of what we reward, what message we’re sending by our ‘rewards,’ the connection between shame, stuttering, struggle, and the importance of not rewarding the Fluency.
- Sign up for a peer mentor PenPal program through FRIENDS. The power of getting to know other kids and teens who stutter provides valuable role models and support. Probably the most important thing we can do is to connect our kids with other kids who stutter. Check out conferences available nationally through FRIENDS.