School is a time for students to learn, grow, and prosper, but when circumstances change and everything is moved to online, this task may become more of a feat for everyone, especially those with speech fluency issues. Virtual learning has changed the way everyday class is being held, and are generating different obstacles to overcome, such as stuttering on video chats.

Classroom settings can already be a source of stress and discomfort for students who stutter. With the expectation of public speaking, asking questions aloud, and simple interaction, the concerns of speaking during a classroom conversation is now amplified. However, there are a few ways to accommodate and lessen these feelings of nervousness:

Teachers

As the leader of the classroom, it is important to understand that each student’s learning needs are different and that this new way of learning can take some time to get used to for everyone. In this case, there are a few ways you can assist your students who have trouble with speech fluency, in feeling more comfortable.

  • Check-in with the student and their parents if necessary to see how their needs have changed. As the listener, what can you do to make it easier for the student to communicate and learn?
  • Be patient with students who are acting out of the norm. They might feel comfortable speaking in a face to face conversation, but video chat is a whole new experience. Meeting the student where they are comfortable right now and helping them find other ways to participate in the learning process, rather than introducing new techniques that can be even more stressful can make a huge difference.
  • While virtual learning is the only way for students to get verbal direction directly from the teacher, this may be the most difficult way of learning for those who have a hard time with speech fluency. Incorporating other ways of instruction such as pre-recorded videos, games, or reading assignments, and discussion boards to provide low-stress outlets while still giving the students the opportunity to participate.
  • When a student suffers from a speech fluency impairment such as stuttering, they often experience prolonged breaks in speech, called blocks. Zoom calls rely on the sound of a person’s voice to highlight their picture when one is speaking, but this poses a challenge for those who experience blocks. Using the hand-raising feature, or chat feature through video conferencing programs allows everyone in the group to have a fair turn in speaking.

Students

  • Be transparent with your teachers about the concerns of your speech fluency. Don’t expect them to understand how to help you if they don’t even know how you are feeling. This is a difficult time for everyone, and they will be understanding.
  • Don’t shut down. It can be tiring to be constantly worrying about the way you speak. Be patient with yourself and others, and you will get to where you need to be.
  • Be open to different learning styles. Everyone is so used to the typical classroom setting, that you may be turning a blind eye to other ways of doing things. If you have an idea on how to make the class more fun or interesting, tell your teacher. They are struggling just as much as you are, and would love the input.

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