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How a teacher can help a student who stutters

​​​​​​There are teaching strategies that may help a student talk more smoothly. These strategies are:

  • not a cure for stuttering (bumpy​ speech)
  • changes you can make in your speech, behaviour, or classroom that may help a student during bumpy times

Talk slower

Students with bumpy speech may benefit from hearing slower speech in the classroom. Slow down how fast you talk instead of saying slow down. A child who is told to slow down a lot might get frustrated or decide to talk less.

Slowing down how fast you talk may help a student’s stuttering because:

  • if you talk slower, it shows the child it is okay to take his or her time
  • slower speech may be calming and relaxing (especially if the child is excited, scared, angry, o​r upset)
  • talking slower may lessen the sense of competition while having a conversation

This strategy might not work for the child to slow down, but you might notice the child is more talkative (fluent).

How do you slow down?

To slow down your speech:

  • use a slower, relaxed rate of speech by slightly stretching the vowels in words (e.g., “Wee waant aa cookiee”).
  • pause between phrases, sentences, and ideas (e.g., “I went to the store…and I bought some milk...and some bread”).

Use more wait time

How do you use more wait time?

Wait about 2 seconds after the child stops talking before you start talking. You can use body language, nod your head and smile, or use sounds like “mm-hmm” to show you are interested and that you are listening.

How does wait time help a student’s stuttering?

Wait time may help a child’s stuttering as it:

  • ensures the child is done talking so you don’t interrupt
  • provides a model that it’s okay for a child to take time to put thoughts into words
  • lessens competition for talk time and helps make communication more relaxed

Look and listen

Look at a student when he or she is talking and listen with interest. Try to be face to face with the child. When a child has bumpy speech, reassure him or her by saying you are listening or you have time to listen. Always keep a positive expression on your face.

Repeat or paraphrase

Repeat or use different words (paraphrase) to let the student know you understand what he or she said.

Encourage turn-taking

Turn-taking lowers competition for talking in the classroom. Encourage students to take turns during classroom discussions or during conversations with each other.

Adjust talking demands when a student’s speech is bumpy

Most children have smooth and bumpy days. Children might stutter more when they are tired, sick, or stressed. When a child has a bumpy day, lower the amount that he or she needs to speak or read out loud. Think about asking fewer questions or questions that can be answered with a few words. On smooth days, give the child more chances to talk.

Do not have a hurried and rushed classroom

Try to slow the pace of the classroom down. Do not rush a child. Time pressures make it harder to talk smoothly.

Acknowledge a student’s trouble with stuttering

If a student is aware or frustrated about stuttering, let him or her know you understand. Help the child express his or her feelings about stuttering. You could say things like:

  • “that was a tough word for you to say”
  • “you really tried hard on that word”
  • “sometimes I get stuck on my words too”

When you talk about stuttering, use words like:

  • bumpy speech
  • stuttering
  • getting stuck

Help a student get more confident

Your student might be anxious or scared to do presentations, oral reports, read out loud, or answer questions. Help the child feel more comfortable by encouraging him or her to:

  • practice oral presentations, read out loud, or answer questions in easier situations (e.g., in front of you or two friends) before harder situations (e.g. in front of a small group of students or the whole class)
  • answer a question when he or she volunteers. The child might worry about stuttering while he or she is waiting for a turn to talk. The longer the child has to wait to talk, the more anxious he or she may become. The child may prefer to be the first to take a turn. Talk with the student about what is most comfortable for him or her when waiting for a turn to share in class.

Do not tell the student to slow down or take a breath and start again

Be a model of slower speech and use more wait time instead of saying slow down or take a breath and start again. The child might get frustrated with such interruptions when he or she is trying to communicate.

Try to accept the student’s stuttering

A child often knows when people are uncomfortable with him or her. When the child feels more comfortable and accepted, he or she might talk more.

Do not react negatively when a student stutters

When a child stutters, do not:

  • punish the child
  • show anger
  • blame the child and shake your head or say things like “you know better”
  • show you are impatient (e.g., complete sentences, interrupt, sigh, or walk away)

Deal with teasing

A child who stutters is often teased. Deal with teasing tactfully. Organize an activity to help other students learn that every child has his or her own strengths and weaknesses and no one is perfect. During these talks, ask students to talk about their strengths and weaknesses with each other. The child who stutters might take this chance to talk about his or her stuttering. Do not talk about stuttering in the classroom unless you have permission from the child who stutters and his or her parents (if needed).​​​​​​

Where to get help

For more information about how speech-language pathologists and audiologists can help, contact:​​

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