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Stuttering Strategies for Elementary Students

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Having a stutter can be incredibly challenging for students in elementary school. This lesson offers some strategies you can use to help your students speak in a more fluent and relaxed way.

Impact of Stuttering

Ms. Ringler is a first grade teacher who loves helping her students develop their confidence, knowledge base and literacy skills. This year, though, she has two students in her class who struggle with a stutter, meaning their speech is dysfluent, and they sometimes repeat the same syllables or words multiple times before they are able to communicate effectively. Ms. Ringler has noticed that these students sometimes really suffer because of their speech issue. She learns that students with stutters can:

  • Lack confidence about their voices and capacity to communicate
  • Be socially misunderstood or even ostracized
  • Struggle to master reading and writing because their oral language has never achieved fluency.

Ms. Ringler decides to research some strategies that she can use to help her two students with stutters thrive in spite of the challenges they face.

Antecedent Charts

First, Ms. Ringler learns that it is important to figure out the patterns behind students' stutters. She learns about antecedent charts, which are basically tables in which she can keep track of what happens immediately before a student begins stuttering. Keeping these charts over time helps Ms. Ringler observe patterns in her students' speech.

For instance, she notices that one of her students stutters more at the end of the morning and then again at the end of the afternoon than other times. This leads Ms. Ringler to theorize that hunger and fatigue exacerbate this child's stutter, so she allows her to have extra snacks over the course of the day. The other student stutters most when she is trying to participate in large group discussions; Ms. Ringler helps her practice what she is going to say in front of the whole group before she has to say it.

Exercises

Knowing why and when students stutter is not the whole story, and Ms. Ringler also consults with her school's speech and language pathologist, or expert on speech and language development and problems, to learn some exercises she can use to help her students who stutter. The speech and language pathologist teaches her the following exercises:

  • Have students roll a small ball along a sentence while they read it out loud multiple times. The rolling of the ball and the sensory experience of touching it help students internalize how fluent language can sound.
  • Encourage students to speak while they are doing something else, like doodling or playing cards. Sometimes, the distraction of having something to do with their hands can help ameliorate their stutters.
  • Give students tongue twisters, nursery rhymes and poems to practice reciting. Saying the same rhyme multiple times can be a great way to practice difficult sounds and syllables.
  • Before activities where students will have to do a lot of talking, do some guided meditation, yoga or other relaxation techniques. While anxiety is not always what causes stutters, it often makes them much worse.

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