Teachers often report having difficulty knowing how to handle certain situations with children who stutter in the classroom. Should they be equally expected to read out loud and answer questions? Should the teacher talk to the child about their speech? Here’s what to do:
Pre-School and Kindergarten
Pre-school and kindergarten-aged children are all still learning how to talk. This means that they will make mistakes in their speech, some more than others, which is completely normal. Some children may have disfluencies like repetition and prolongation of sounds that are more noticeable. If this is the case, speak with a speech pathologist for suggestions. Talk to the child’s parents for their opinion so you will know if this is typical speech behavior. If the disfluencies continue, you may want to ask a speech pathologist to observe them.
Many elementary teachers wonder how a child who stutters should be expected to participate in class. It all depends on the individual child; one child may be happy to contribute to the discussion while another child may feel so uncomfortable speaking that they refuse to talk.
Talk With the Child
Talk with the child privately and explain to them that we all make mistakes when we speak sometimes. Explain that stuttering is okay and that you accept it. This helps teach the child that you are aware of their stuttering and you accept them, too. When you ask questions to the class, there are things you can do to make it easier on those who stutter. Initially, you may ask questions that can be answered in just a few words. If every child is being asked a question, call on the child who stutters relatively early so tension does not build as they wait to answer. Let the class know that you are more concerned with having them take their time and think about their answers rather than answering quickly.
Some children who stutter may stutter severely while reading aloud in class. It can help to read in unison with someone else, so rather than avoiding calling on the child to read aloud by themselves, pair them with a classmate. Do so with the whole class sometimes so the child who stutters does not feel singled out.
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