Sie sind auf Seite 1von 7

How do we accommodate stutterers in secondary school classrooms?

The solutions regarding the issue of stuttering in adolescents are complex. In the context

of an institution, officially there is little or no active support for students with speech

impediments. From my understanding, this was replicated across the board. Although finding

other students with the same issue was rare (I only knew/met one other stutterer throughout

my entire schooling), I observed that they were not receiving any assistance from the school

administration. This was slightly tempered by the fact that the last thing a sutterer wants to

do is talk about the problem because it is so embarrassing and emotionally painful to do so.

One of the central historical issues is that schools have a limited amount of funding. During

my placement, and in particular in the completion of the Pre Learning Assessment (PLA), I

learned that for students there are EAs who are available for individuals with learning

difficulties/disabilities. Within Dover Bay such is the commitment to helping students with

disabilities, there is even a specifically designated department available for ELL students. I

have also observed students with autism and problems with motor skills having their own

delegated EA. There is a very much progressive liberalised attitude which is based on social


However, and of course excluding Quebec, despite having the same language, culturally

England is different to Canada. For historical and economic reasons, Canada is much more

socially progressive than England which is significantly more conservative and traditionalist.

In England, showing any signs of vulnerability is perceived as a weakness because it draws

attention to you. This is illustrated in a culture of stoicism which means there is a pervasive

you just have to get on with it attitude towards hardship. To a large extent, this was the

attitude I had to adapt while I was at school; if I had not, then I simply wouldnt have

survived. Except for those with serious disabilities such as cerebral palsy, there was virtually

no support. I can only remember there being two EAs for a school of nearly 750 students. In
stark contrast to modern Canadian schools, there was a feeling of exclusion rather than

inclusion. What also potentially made the situation worse was the fear of bullying. Neufeld

and Mate in their book, Hold on to your kids, indicate a pervasive culture of bullying in

English schools. While this is true I was never bullied, but there was always the sense of

menace present which increased my anxiety.

What exacerbates the situation for a stutterer is two fold. Firstly, despite not being able to

say something when you want to say it, stuttering is not officially designated as a disability.

The absence of designation means that funding for stutterers is not as readily available as it

would be for conditions such as dyslexia for example; I knew of several people with dyslexia

who had substantial assistance ranging from being allocated an extra hour to finish exams to

more one on one time with teachers. Stuttering is also an issue that only affects 1% of the

world population. The numbers are low so the potential of funding is reduced even more.

The consequences of this mean that because funding has been denied to the specific

condition, it means that there is no focus or attention during teacher training courses. During

this particular training course there has not been a single mention of stuttering. I would

confidently assume from this that across other teacher training courses mention of the

condition is also either non-existent or presumably cursory.

The causes of stuttering are different to categorise. There has been some research into

the condition. Research into the brain chemistry of stutterers has revealed that the condition

is caused by too much dopamine. Arguably like anti-social behaviours like ADHD it could be

dealt with prescription drugs for example with pharmaceuticals that suppress dopamine. This

would set a very dangerous precedent in that a stutterer could be reliant on drugs. Within

contemporary society, there are already too many people relying on both legal and illegal

drugs in order to deal with psychological problems. Creating more people with a reliance on

drugs in a society that already has a seemingly ingrained problem with substance abuse is

extremely foolish. All these elements combine to make the problem extremely difficult for
educators to deal with. Yet, for a small number of individuals it is an issue that affects every

element of their life and must be addressed.

At the core of modern mainstream education in the West is Rousseaus theory that the

student should be allowed the autonomy to explore the world in order to find their own voice;

it is the philosophical foundation that acts a springboard for students to excel from. Such is

the strength of this basis is that the influence of Rousseaus theory is still evident in

contemporary classrooms with teachers using Montessori etc. During my practicum, this

notion of students finding their own voice has been illustrated by the inquiry based learning

at the basis of the BC Curriculum. But for individuals with a stutter this base is fundamentally

undermined if the student cannot communicate effectively from an early age until, on

average, their mid-twenties. As will be examined in more detail later, Chomskys theory

which encourages self exploration in the context of language acquisition is uniquely difficult

to implement.

So the question that must be asked here, is what can the teacher do to help the student not

just within the context of school, but also the influence of which would also benefit the

student outside of the institution? As Dr. Neufeld suggests during the emergent process for

adolescents the brain is going through changes that causes confusion. With stutterers the

anxiety during this process is acute because communication is profoundly hindered. The

teachers role in this is to form an attachment with the student. If there is a connection with

the student then the teacher forms a context that can invite expression. Similar to the blank

spaces in which the individual can expresses themselves in artistic mediums such as poetry,

prose or music, this is a place where a student can feel protected. There is a vicious circle of

anxiety and stress which the individual needs protection from. What makes the construction

of the place more unconventional than usual is that it mainly must be non-communicative.

There are two central ways in which this place of protection can be constructed without

verbal communication.
The first step in forming attachment is based on trust. The most fundamental thing that

must be avoided is the teacher correcting or interrupting the student if they stutter during

speaking either in group situations or answering in front of the class. Here, as I alluded to

earlier, Chomskys theory regarding the acquisition of language and in particular the more

performative element is to an extent paradoxical. As he suggests, during the acquisition

process, if a student makes a grammatical error when speaking then they must not be

corrected. For a stutterer, a teacher correcting the student is a more acutely detrimental

factor. This can lead to the student not contributing. Speaking from personal experience, an

unaware teacher would sometimes correct me, or finish my sentence. This had the effect of

making me sometimes retreat into myself and therefore create resistance.

The difficulty lies in the notion that the student needs to be assessed in terms of their

verbal communication abilities; this is a key part of formal assessment which helps the

student to build the skills vital for the workplace. As I learnt in school, you cannot depend on

just written English skills alone. Although assessment should be judged on an equal basis,

the teacher must make informal accommodations. An example being that the time allotted

for an aural presentation needs to be a little longer for a stutterer. This kind of awareness

breeds a unique trust. The strength of which can both transcend the classroom and

increases confidence within it. For example, a particular teacher was patient and respectful

regarding my issue. In turn, the respect was paid back by trying harder in his lesson to

sustain the relationship and I ended up overachieving in the class to the extent that I was

given a prestigious award recognising my hard work. This made me feel that despite my

problem I was capable not just in his classroom, but in others and in my pursuits outside of


The second most effective and simplest practice is simply by being both authoritative and

decisive if the student is being bullied. While this is not a problem in general, it is a

potentially damaging issue. If the student is being bullied then the teacher must act quickly.
This cannot and must not be a half measure. The students responsible must be subjected to

punitive measures beyond a mere telling off. These measures would include internal

suspension, and/or an extended period of detention. In support of a more serious formal

reaction, some peer groups are formed in order to make a collection of emotionally weak

individuals appear strong. The reality is of course illusory, but this does not prevent a

vulnerable individual becoming a target for these type of groups. The student might be safe

within the classroom, but outside they become a target. The perceived weakness of the

teachers reaction if they were to merely tell a bully off for example gives the group strength

because they effectively have gotten away with it. This provides a kind of validation for their

behaviour because these kind of groups gain strength from the attention they receive. A

comparable situation in the wider society being the rising prominence of abhorrent

far-groups due to the attention of mainstream media not condoning their behaviour strongly

enough. In other words, the punishments must be severe enough to prevent the student

from being bullied again. The results of the continuing bullying of a stutterer could potentially

be devastating in both the short term and the long term.

While these both key strategies are useful, what is making the situation more difficult for

both stutterers and teachers is the increasing use of technology inside and outside of the

classroom. While the emphasis on technology has made everything easier, students still

have to talk. While I suggested in the previous section that Dr Neufeld is partially wrong and

over-generalised to say peer groups can be a bad influence. I found during my education

that peer groups could be a great source of support, care, trust and protection. But the

prevalence of social media in the formation of peer groups in the contemporary world is not

helping stutterers. This is for two reasons. Firstly, they cannot practice speaking online. A

stutterer talking to their friends online for the majority of the time loses that vital element of

controlling ones breath and choosing words that do not cause the individual to stutter; this,

in my experience, was greatly beneficial because it both widened my vocabulary and made
me much more aware of what Im saying. Secondly, this is exacerbated by the stutterer

immersing themselves in the online world to the point where it becomes a kind of sanctuary.

The online world to a large extent is nonverbal and so is a space that provides protection.

Such is the influence of this world is that has the potential to supersede the promise of the

protective human connections that a teacher can provide. Unlike a teacher, the internet is

always available and its this availability that can, despite its emotional emptiness, replace

key human relationships based on trust. While in theory the internet acts a rhizomic like

structure in which multiple personalities, including when not connected, can co-exist, the

actuality for a stutterer is far different. For a stutterer, the internet creates a hierarchal

structure in which the nonverbal and therefore the non stuttering personality becomes

dominant. But this particularly idiosyncratic personality exists outside of the real world,

beyond trusting and nurturing human relationships. The availability and non judgemental

nature of the medium providing such protection from aural anxiety that such relationships are

rendered cursory, ineffective and therefore meaningless. The conclusion of which manifests

itself in an autonomous self which will experience profound problems in trying to work

through the emergent process because verbal communication is merely functionary.

The current insistence on integrating technology into the classroom makes the job much

more difficult to for a teacher to form a protective relationship with a student. Again, as I

have observed in my practicum experience such is this insistence is that some students

dont talk at all; I have seen ELL students who have not said a single word, nor have been

expected to say anything in their classroom because they can hide in their computer

screens. Teachers are in a difficult position regarding their students using technology. They

have the influence and to an extent time to persuade a student not to spend so much time

on Facebook or using Snapchat, but while the educational boards are insisting on students

using technology in their classrooms as a key part of their learning the teacher is trying to

resist powerful and contradictory forces. Cumulatively, this makes it very difficult for a
teacher to help and for the stutterer to overcome their difficulties. Ignoring ethical concerns in

the interest of empiricism, technology increases its dominance.