What follows are some answers to some of the more commonly asked questions teachers have.
WHAT SHOULD I DO WHEN A STUDENT IN MY CLASS STUTTERS?
Listen to what s/he says, not how s/he says it. Let the student take all the time s/he needs to make a point. Don't ask him/her to "slow down" or "relax" - you will only draw attention away from the topic to the speech difficulty.
SHOULD I EXCUSE THE STUDENT FROM ORAL PRESENTATION OF PROJECTS OR REPORTS?
If the student who stutters is excused from oral classroom work, s/he may feel momentary relief, but the next time s/he faces such a situation, the fear and anxiety may be even greater. We all feel better once we face a feared situation, and the student who stutters is no exception. When you speak to him/her, explain that excusing him/her from oral assignments won't help, because eventually s/he will have to learn to speak to a group. To make things easier, you might suggest some of the following:
The use of a slide or overhead projector for the presentation of material. (The student may feel more relaxed and stutter less if the class is not looking directly at him/her.)
Tape record part of the presentation. (People who stutter are usually more fluent when they talk with one person, or speak into a tape recorder in the privacy of their own home.)
Arrange for the student to meet with you two or three times before the presentation day for "rehearsal. Once s/he knows you are on his/her side, anxiety will lessen.
Students with severe stuttering problems might be given the opportunity to do the first few oral presentations privately in front of the teacher the next few in front of a small group, and gradually working up to presenting in front of the entire class.
SHOULD I DISCUSS THE STUTTERING PROBLEMS WITH THE STUDENT'S OTHER TEACHERS?
It is important that the rest of the staff (especially those involved with the student and the guidance department) be made aware of the problem. Help everyone to realize how this problem might affect the student's work in their class.
CAN THE CHILD'S STUTTERING BE OVERCOME?
Studies show that approximately one half of all children who stutter become fluent. (However the probability of this decreases with each passing year that the school-aged child stutters.) Some children improve significantly with treatment. We generally do not speak of a "cure" for stuttering. Our aims are to increase fluency, build self-confidence, help to reduce communication stress in the environment and help the student accept him/herself.
SOMETIMES THE STUDENT'S SPEECH IS VERY FLUENT AND OTHER TIMES IT IS QUITE SEVERE - WHY DOES IT CHANGE?
Most of the time, a student who stutters will have more fluent than dysfluent speech. His/her speech will probably deteriorate when tired, anxious, worried or uncertain. Amount and severity of stuttering is affected by the situation and the alert teacher can help structure the school environment so that the student will encounter more success than failure. For example, avoid asking questions on a day when s/he is having a great deal of difficulty speaking, but do capitalize on a good day. The student's confidence will increase as s/he experiences more fluency.