It’s the start of a new school year. This means new teachers, new classrooms, new subjects, new friends, and a whole bunch of new speaking situations. For your students who stutter, this is likely the most challenging time of the year. As their school speech-language pathologist you are on the front line of being able to support them during this transition. Here are 5 steps you can take to get the year off to a great start:
This includes all staff. Principals, administrators, classroom teachers, guidance counselors, cafeteria staff, office staff, maintenance staff and anyone who comes in contact with students on a regular day. Why go grand? The more staff you educate about stuttering, the more power you have to create a stutter-friendly environment. You can educate your staff by sharing facts and myths about stuttering, listener tips, tips for teachers, and this informative video on stuttering.
Fortify your school as a bully-free zone by teaming up with your guidance counselor, principal, and school administrators. Clarify what measures are already in place to maintain a zero-tolerance policy, and outline what measures are set to be taken if bullying presents itself in the form of stuttering, or otherwise. Start planning for National Bullying Prevention Month which starts on the first of October. Team up with national organizations such as PACER and and STOMP Out Bullying to make your school a bully-free zone. Prevention is the best medicine so become familiar with preventions available, such as these suggestions from stopbullying.gov.
A stuttering ally is a person who who stands in solidarity with people who stutter and support them at all times. You can build and strengthen allyship by modeling what being an ally looks like (you are already doing this with numbers 1 and 2) and with any of these 5 suggestions from the the National Stuttering Association. A must read is this comic strip created by SLP and PhD candidate Hope Gerlach and AIS client Elizabeth Wislar, a person who stutters and teacher of students with disabilities. It clearly depicts what an ally does when a person who stutters is having a challenging situation.
Mark your calendars for October 22, International Stuttering Awareness Day (ISAD), and May 7th-13th, National Stuttering Awareness Week (NSAW). These two important times of the year were established internationally and nationally to educate, advocate and shed stigma on stuttering. You can gather exciting information and have interested students create hallway bulletins, stuttering challenges, and educational video. Take it away with the creativity here. And be sure to celebrate. These days are exciting times for stuttering awareness so keep it real, but also light, fun and memorable.
Throughout this entire process, be sure to check in with your student’s level of interest in participating with any or all of your stuttering educational events. This can be a great time for your student to feel empowered and take ownership of his or her stutter. At the same time, your student may not be ready to do anything stuttering related. If this is the case, cherish, respect, and protect that. Open communication will help deepen your understanding of your student’s level of readiness and support them in establishing boundaries for what does and does not feel right. Let them lead you in this process. This will build trust and strengthen the foundation for therapeutic healing, growth, and change.
https://youtu.be/r5oNHmpBc3AThe American Institute for Stuttering is a leading non-profit organization whose primary mission is to provide universally affordable, state-of-the-art speech therapy to people of all ages who stutter, guidance to their families, and much-needed clinical training to speech professionals wishing to gain expertise in stuttering. Offices are located in New York, NY and Atlanta, GA, and services are also available Online. Our mission extends to advancing public and scholarly understanding of this often misunderstood disorder.