Back-to-School Help For Kids Who Stutter

By Christina Elston

for_kids_by_kids_videoActress Nicole Kidman, NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal and Vice President Joe Biden all overcame stuttering and had successful – and high profile – careers. As the new school year commences, are you wondering how your child will manage?

“One in every 100 people stutters,” says Jane Fraser, president of The Stuttering Foundation. “But as many as two or three younger children in each classroom may struggle with this complex disorder.” The nonprofit foundation is ready to help with a host of free resources for teachers and parents.

Their tips for teachers include:

  • Help all members of the class learn to take turns talking and listening. All children – especially those who stutter – find it much easier to talk when there are few interruptions and they have the listener’s attention.
  • Expect the same quality and quantity of work from the student who stutters as the one who doesn’t.
  • Have a one-on-one conversation with the student who stutters about needed accommodations in the classroom. Respect the student’s needs but do not be enabling.

Their advice for parents includes:

  • Try to increase those times that you give your child your undivided attention and are really listening. This does not mean dropping everything every time she speaks.
  • Help all members of the family take turns talking and listening. Children find it much easier to talk when there are fewer interruptions.
  • Set aside a few minutes at a regular time each day when you can give your undivided attention to your child. This quiet calm time – no TV, iPad or phones – can be a confidence builder for young children. As little as five minutes a day can make a difference.
  • Normal rules apply. Discipline the child who stutters just as you do your other children and just as you would if he didn’t stutter.

The foundation’s back-to-school resource center also includes additional tips for teachers, a mini-poster featuring famous people who stutter, and a video called “Stuttering Straight Talk for Teachers.” For parents, there is a video featuring tips for talking with the child who stutters, information on special-education law and children who stutter, and a video about stuttering “For Kids By Kids.”

A tidbit from that video: Kids who are teased about their stuttering at school should talk directly to those teasing them, asking, “What’s the big deal?” and explaining about stuttering.

The foundation also offers DVDs, books, brochures, newsletters and referrals through its website, www.StutteringHelp.org, and its toll-free helpline: 800-992-9392.

Christina Elston is Editor of L.A. Parent.

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