My 20 years as the Education Officer for the British Stammering Association (BSA) has made me aware of just how true that is for all those families affected by stammering. While I do receive enquiries from teachers and therapists the majority of enquirers are parents, devastated by a diagnosis of stammering for which they often blame themselves. Looking into the future they fear for their child’s social and academic development in such a competitive society where communication is seen as a basic skill. They are hurt by the many depictions of stammering as a joke or stereotype: on one occasion in a reading book for Year 1 children! The BSA offers a way forward with a listening ear, support, information and online resources for parents and professionals. We provide the tools and the strategies to give support to children and young people who stammer at home and in school, so that stammering need not hold them back.
- Early intervention gives the best chance of recovery
- BSA online resources provide parents and education staff with information and strategies of support for pupils who stammer
Stammering is a serious communication difficulty that commonly begins in the early years when intervention gives the best opportunity for recovery for the 5% of young children who are affected.
Simple strategies for early years’ staff. www.stammering.org/earlyyears
When stammering continues after the early years it is embedded, is more difficult to treat and becomes a more complex difficulty as children get older. While with support stammering at school age can be managed, there is unlikely to be a full recovery.
School age children and young people
There are about 125,000 5-18 year olds in the UK who stammer, 1.2% of the age group in education or training who are affected by this serious communication difficulty. They all need support to avoid the negative impact of stammering on their social-emotional, educational and vocational development.
Worryingly, persistent stammering impacts on self-esteem and confidence and may adversely affect academic performance and social relationships as a consequence of a fear of speaking- in class, in relationships with staff and other pupils, and with friends and family. Regrettably children who stammer are more likely to be teased and/or bullied, and have been rated as less popular than those who do not). Very recently a distraught parent of a teenage boy who stammered contacted me about his suicidal thoughts and his admission that he had considered ways of taking his own life. This is an extreme version of the desperation that some young people feel about their stammer. We know that there is an increased rate of anxiety disorders among children and young people who stutter and intervention is essential in childhood to prevent the development of serious mental health difficulties later in life.
I know from our parents that frequently stammering is often not understood in schools, particularly in the secondary sector, for the serious communication difficulty it is- sometimes our pupils, even at quite a young age learn to lie low, avoiding talking, pretending not to hear, causing a distraction rather than risk stammering in a response. I worked in schools for many years and quite understand the demands made on teachers in the inclusive classroom where many pupils present with overt needs while the pupil who stammers may be just quietly miserable so is left to get on with it! However, that is not really good enough because children and their families are suffering.
Horrifyingly in this inclusive era, there are still teachers, both primary and secondary, who insist on a formulaic response when noting attendance- one boy of 15 at the moment is going down the disciplinary path because of absences from class registrations. Mother is one of the concerned parents whom Edward Simpson described at the SEND Conference in February as “an agitator”- I know he meant well, using the word to mean a parent who makes demands, but is that term helpful? Hardly, as the word can be used to suggest that parents are just troublemakers, and too many schools in spite of SEND treat our parents as if they are. Our parents are using our resource to navigate the complexities of SEND and use the leverage it gives them, but it can be a hard struggle! www.stammering.org/SEND
Way to go on responses in schools to stammering then, but the BSA keeps at it, raising awareness of stammering and the principles of SEND are so helpful for our community, if teachers have the time to consider the needs of the below EHC group.
Learn about stammering and be sensitive to its effects!
Access the BSA online resources for simple strategies of support that improve the communication environment for all pupils and as appropriate the differential strategies which may be needed to supplement the advice of a therapist.
What about oral examinations for 16+
Just recently discovered, for instance, that in the JCQ Access regulations, issued in September, there are no case studies to guide teachers on oral examinations; for our young people this diminishes their struggle and makes it very difficult for harassed school staff to work out how to get adaptations for them. Staff contact me if they are really interested but this is one extra hurdle for busy teachers to go through!!
The British Stammering Association
The BSA welcomes you- with just over 4 fte staff we need all the help and publicity we can get and membership is free. Numbers add weight to our voice!
The BSA community is passionate about getting out our message through our online resources, Facebook, Twitter and personal endeavours. Only recently our heroic Chair, Tim Fell, walked from John O’Groats to Lands End -1035 miles in 56 days, staying for all but 6 of those with our members, who turned up to walk with him, give him hospitality, arrange publicity, a massive outpouring of support!
Education Officer, British Stammering Association