Children who have been stuttering for longer than 3 years are less likely to grow out of stuttering. For these children it is important they have the techniques to manage their stuttering and minimise any anxiety it may cause.
During the school years, children become more concerned about their stuttering. As they grow, learn and develop there may be an increase in their stuttering. New challenges contribute to this, such as being asked to read aloud in class, give a speech or take part in assembly. They can become frustrated or even develop avoidance behaviours like changing a word or not answering a question. Some school aged children develop a fear of talking. Teasing or bullying can often become an issue at this age.
Here are some ways to support a school aged child with their stutter:
- Take turns to talk. Ensure that everybody listens to each other and nobody interrupts the speaker.
- Discuss with your child’s teacher about creating a supportive classroom environment.
- Make it okay to talk about stuttering openly.
- Be sure to give your child the time it takes to finish thoughts. Protecting your child’s talk time will reduce frustration when speaking.
And for teachers, there is now a new film produced in New Zealand by START (Stuttering Treatment and Research Trust). In this 15-minute film, they share their stories about stuttering both in and out of the school environment, to make the world an easier place for people who stutter. Educational, and sometimes emotional, this film provides us with insights into the lives of people who stutter. The stories that these young Kiwis share will help us to learn what we can do to support people who stutter. This film is of particular value to teachers or others who care about people who stutter.
And on this side of the Tasman, there is an organisation called Say: Australia, based in Melbourne.
SAY: Australia provides free, comprehensive and innovative creative arts programs aimed at addressing the physical, social and emotional impacts of stuttering for young people who stutter.
Through creative expression in an environment of acceptance and supporting full self-expression, SAY: Australia helps young people who stutter to develop self-confidence, communication skills, long-lasting friendships, and supports them to follow their dreams. There are online programs for children and teens who are not in Melbourne.
During each program session, groups of kids and teens create their own project and at the end of the program, each project is presented to an audience filled with supportive family and friends. Children and teens have complete control on how they wish to participate in this final showcase performance – there’s no pressure to perform – and it’s the ultimate confidence building experience that can transfer directly into the classroom and everyday life.