Dear Dr. Shore,
I teach eighth-grade English and I have a boy in my class with a pronounced stutter. My heart goes out to him when he speaks in class. I want to help make him comfortable but I'm afraid that I'm going to do something that makes him more self-conscious. What do you suggest?
Your concern is well-placed. Children who stutter often are very self-conscious about their speech. Fearful of humiliating themselves, they shy away from talking in class. Its easier for them to keep quiet than risk embarrassment. They often go to great lengths to conceal their stuttering, but beneath their silence is a strong desire to talk like their peers.
Your role is to help your student feel more comfortable in class by lessening his fear of stuttering. The reason for that is the more children try not to stutter, the more theyre likely to stutter. Your students stuttering will decrease as his fear of stuttering decreases and he puts less effort into trying to prevent its occurrence. In short, your role is to promote free speech rather than fluent speech. Just as importantly, you serve as a role model for your other students about how to respond to the student who stutters.
The following strategies might help your student feel more comfortable in class: