Top 10 Tips – Stammering

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How can we help pupils who stammer?

Stammering / stuttering is a disfluency which occurs when young children are learning to talk. Young people with a stammer have a Speech, Language and Communication Need (SLCN). The longer it persists, the greater the likelihood of there being related issues of self-esteem and anxiety.

There are fantastic ideas and more details on The British Stammering Association website. In particular I recommend the phonics guide for teachers preparing for the Y1 phonics test as well as the link to the association’s school support website.

Here are ten tips for teachers who work with children who have a stammer.

1. Refer to a SaLT

If they haven’t been made aware already, refer the young person to a SaLT (Speech and Language Therapist) after discussing with parents/carers.

2. Follow SaLT programmes

A SEN Support Plan written by your SENDCo using the SaLT outcomes can be a bonus in ensuring needs are met if you are facing staffing issues or time constraints.

3. Reduce classroom pressures to speak

Expecting every child to read aloud from a class book or answer ‘yes’ in registration places pressure on people with a stammer (and on many others too!). Visual communication strategies can reduce the stress.

4. Early doors

If you are expecting a stammering young person to speak, pick them close to the start of a lesson to prevent anxiety building or get them to speak/read in unison with a friend.

5. Zoom in on personal interests

Create opportunities for the young person to speak about topics that interest them. This is as simple as a voluntary ‘show and tell’ or sharing their interests with a friend in a lesson. Be creative.

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6. Allow breathing space

Give plenty of space for a young person to answer; don’t try and hurry them along or finish their sentences.

7. Check their understanding

A stammering child may have understood more than you think but equally their stammer may mask that they aren’t sure and need extra support.

8. Closely monitor peer relationships

Research by Steve Davies at UCL indicated that a young person with a stammer was twice as likely to be rejected by peers than a fluent speaking child.

9. Listen and repeat

Listen to what the young person is saying and don’t focus too much on how they say it; repeat back key words/concepts to show you understand.

10. Assess

Use cognitive assessments, delivered by your SENDCo or Educational Psychologist, to measure attainment rather than focusing on reading assessments.

Children who stutter [are] rejected significantly more often than … their peers and [are] significantly less likely to be popular. When compared to children who do not stutter, the children who stutter [are] less likely to be nominated as ‘leaders’ and [are] more likely to be nominated to the ‘bullied’ and ‘seeks help’ categories. (Research from UCL)

Helen Woodley

Helen Woodley is a primary trained SENDCo currently working in a large KS1-4 Pupil Referral Unit in the North East of England. She spent 3 years studying Theology in Durham; Helen has worked in a wide variety of special school settings, including all age schools. She has a wealth of knowledge about SEN systems and the importance of every teacher being equipped to support the variety of SEN needs within their classroom. Helen has recently completed her thesis and completed her Ed.D at Newcastle University. Outside of teaching, she collects animals and has dreams of running a rescue centre!

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