Top Tips For Those Working With Primary School Children
If you think that a child that you are working with may be stammering, the next step is discuss this with their parent/carer. By discussing this together, if you are all in agreement that professional help is needed, then the child can be referred to a Speech and Language Therapist.
Our partner, the Michael Palin Centre offer these useful tips:
“A good teacher doesn’t interrupt what I’m saying. They give me time to speak.” “After I’ve been asked a question if I was given the time to start thinking about the answer and my speech as well it would be very helpful because I could think of some techniques for my speech”.
Child who Stammers
“I don’t really like being told to slow down.”
“People tell me to hurry up, but I get annoyed because I speed up and then I stammer more, so then it takes even more time to get the words out.”
‘Stammering: A Practical Guide for Teachers and Other Professionals’.
Developed by Rustin, L., Cook, F., Botterill, W., Hughes, C. & Kelman, E, it offers advice and information for teachers about dealing with younger children, primary school children and secondary-aged pupils who stammer.
Title: Stammering: A Practical Guide for Teachers and Other Professionals
Written by: Rustin, L., Cook, F., Botterill, W., Hughes, C. & Kelman, E.
Published by: David Fulton: London ISBN 1-85346-585-2
This is available from a number of online shops including Amazon.
- Talk to the child; if it is clear that they are aware of their stammer, then it will be appropriate (with parents’ permission) to take them to one side and talk to them about it. Find out whether there are things they want to do more of, but needs a bit of support, or whether there are things that are really worrying them e.g. taking messages to another teacher or participating in circle time
- Try to be flexible with oral tasks. Routines like answering the register can be a daily nightmare for a child who stammers – is there another way? E.g. everyone putting their hands up instead. This is a good topic to discuss in your 1:1 session and the suggestion sheets are a great starting point
- Paired reading can be really good practice and often results in the child reading more fluently too
- Anticipating a turn in reading aloud can be especially difficult. There is time for real anxiety to build up when there is a fixed routine for this (for example row-by-row or in alphabetical order). Choosing at random or having an early turn can be helpful – again checking with the child is a good policy
- Raise awareness amongst all staff, including cover/supply teachers, secretaries, assistants, dinner ladies, etc.
- Don’t advise the child to take a deep breath or to slow down. It probably won’t help for more than a few moments
- Don’t finish the child’s words for them – it may increase anxiety and tension
- Reduce time pressures to speak quickly
- Deal with bullying and teasing immediately – these make stammering much worse
- Deal with unkind behaviour – e.g. mimicking or sniggering
- Praise them for the things that they do well, e.g. listening, taking a turn, being polite, helpful with tidying, etc.
The following suggestion sheets have been developed by our partner the Michael Palin Centre. It offers advice and suggestions in regard to how ou can support a pupil/student that stammers. Every pupil will react different, and support levels may vary.
Download the suggestion sheet here
Being bilingual does not cause stammering and lots of children learn two languages and don’t stammer. For the child who stammers, learning two languages at once can be difficult to manage and may impact on their fluency.
The general advice is very similar to the suggestions outlined above. It is important to consider the language skills of the child and how long they have been learning English, to know what can be expected of them linguistically. Children who are delayed in their language development will benefit from additional time to plan and organise what they want to say and to retrieve the vocabulary they need.