Stuttering Special Needs Factsheet
What Teachers Should Know
Stuttering affects the fluency, or flow, of speech. People who stutter repeat or prolong certain sounds, syllables, or words. These disruptions are called disfluencies. Disfluencies aren’t necessarily a problem, but they can impair communication if they happen often.
Stuttering begins during childhood, usually when a child is around 2 years of age. In many cases, it goes away on its own by age 5. For other people, though, it can last longer, even throughout life.
Students who stutter may:
- feel nervous, embarrassed, and frustrated when they’re talking in class
- have to miss class time to attend speech therapy
- speak slowly or use relaxation techniques to help them speak more clearly
- change words for fear of stuttering
- try to avoid situations that require talking
- make facial or body movements when they stutter
It’s important to keep in mind that students who stutter also are at risk for being targeted by bullies.
What Teachers Can Do
Because stuttering can isolate students from their classmates, it’s essential that teachers provide help and support. Be patient when students who stutter are speaking. Teach all students about the importance of not interrupting and giving everyone the time to express their thoughts and finish their own sentences.
Be a role model by speaking clearly yourself in an unhurried way. You may want to ask questions in ways that let students who stutter give brief answers, or consider letting them substitute written work for oral presentations. Allow make-up work for missed assignments due to speech therapy appointments.
Consult with your student’s speech-language pathologist (SLP), and parents or guardians, to learn about your student’s specific needs. You also can talk privately with the student and get his or her input on what’s helpful and what’s not.
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: March 2014