Sorry these are a day late! Hope everyone had a good “snow break” 🙂
Jamie Priddy shares:
Secondary School Teachers’ Beliefs, Attitudes, and Reactions to Stuttering
The purpose of this article was to study secondary school teachers’ beliefs, attitudes and reactions to stuttering within their classroom setting due to the fact that teachers, as well as speech-language pathologists, indicated the need for more knowledge and training in the area of fluency. The authors achieved this by completing semi-structured interviews with 10 teachers of adolescents who stutter in Belgium. Each head teacher or teaching assistant had a student who stutters in his or her classroom. Results were broken down into two sections: the teachers’ beliefs and attitudes toward stuttering and their reactions to stuttering in the classroom.
Teachers’ Beliefs and Attitudes
During the interviews, a majority of the participants stated that they do not know much about stuttering in general. They defined stuttering in terms of the associated behaviors (repetitions, stumbling over words, etc), rather than as a neurological disorder. They also noted that most of their knowledge about stuttering came from internet searches, movies, and TV shows. In regards to their teaching, the participants mentioned that students who stutter could potentially disrupt their lessons by slowing down the lesson or making it harder for peers to understand a presentation made by the student who stuttered. One belief that the majority of participants agreed upon was the fact that focusing on the stuttering could create a problem. According to the teachers, focusing on the stuttering could lead to labeling or extra emphasis added to the disorder, which could cause more distress for the student. In my opinion, this is a belief shared by most people that encounter someone who stutters, regardless of their relationship to the person. I even see this reaction toward stuttering in my school building. For example, teachers and parents would rather pay less attention to the stuttering than have an open discussion about it, particularly if the student or child is young or does not react negatively to the stuttering. One positive fact that surfaced during the interview was regarding reactions of peers. Multiple participants were surprised to see how patient peers were toward their classmates who stuttered. The teachers expected for peers to laugh or make negative comments, but learned that adolescents were very accepting of fluency disorders within the school setting. This part made me smile because I experience this with my middle school students! From my experience, it is so easy to make assumptions and generalizations about middle and high school students being disrespectful and hurtful toward other students. But when you take the time to build relationships with the students and really get to know them, they will surprise you and be more accepting of others than you would ever believe!
Reactions to Stuttering
One main theme emerged in regard to the teachers’ reactions to their stuttering students: all teachers want to show understanding and support to their students. Of course each teacher will accomplish this in different ways, such as trying to react as little as possible to the stutter, easing the students’ stress, building relationships with the student, or offering specific measures to make the student feel more comfortable in the classroom (ex: only calling on the student to answer a question when he or she raises hand). Each of the participants agreed that having a trusting and open relationship with their students is extremely important in helping them succeed and feel more confident in the classroom; however, openness about stuttering rarely occurs. I believe this is an area that we, as SLPs, can share our expertise. We can share our knowledge about stuttering with teachers in our buildings, so that they might feel more confident discussing it with their students. We can explain that there are advantages to talking with students who stutter, and that it likely won’t draw negative attention just by being open
about the subject. When teachers feel comfortable discussing stuttering with their students and other peers in the classroom, each student learns and may become more open and accepting of the disorder. Lastly, the participants disagreed on how to react to the stuttering of a student during a lesson. Some teachers believed in giving the student extended time to respond, while others believed in finishing the words or thought for the stuttering student. Again, SLPs can play a large role in educating teachers and other school staff on this subject.
Overall, this study gathered qualitative data to gain understanding into teachers’ beliefs and attitudes about working with students who stutter. The results concluded that teachers working in secondary education feel confident in dealing with stuttering students; however, their beliefs and reactions may be based on previously learned assumptions about stuttering. More knowledge is needed in this area for teachers to become more comfortable not only dealing with stuttering in their classrooms, but also in supporting their students educational and emotional needs in regards to their fluency disorder. We are given a wonderful platform to share our knowledge and be the bridge between teachers and their students who stutter.