Navbar button The Headteacher
BigDug May 22
BigDug May 22

Supporting a child who stammers

January 24, 2022, 10:36 GMT+1
Read in 3 minutes
  • Abed Ahmed knows what it’s like to stammer - and how schools can help children who do.
Supporting a child who stammers

Stammering can have an adverse effect on a student’s confidence and ability to thrive in school. 

STAMMA, the British Stammering Association, reports that 8% of children will stammer at some point, and between 1% and 3% will continue into adulthood. 

This means it is highly likely that you will have pupils (and perhaps some staff) in your school who stammer, though they may try to hide it. 

I have struggled with a stammer since the age of four and only started to stammer openly and confidently after the age of 19.I have been bullied and have been called all sorts of names – from “machine gun” to “woodpecker” - including by adults. 

My teachers and even my parents never seemed to quite understand my stammer. Why would they? Not many people do. 

So, what can you do to support your pupils?

Here are my top tips:

  • Treat a pupil who stammers the same way as you treat pupils who do not.
  • Never finish their sentences. Always listen to what they have to say and not the way they are saying it.
  • Be patient. The more anxious we feel, the more likely we will stammer even more.
  • Do not tell a stammerer to breathe slowly or take their time – it just makes us feel that we are not capable of speaking for ourselves.
  • Keep eye contact at all times. We like to know that we are being listened to.
  • Make a point of asking stammerers what you can do to support them.
  • Try speaking to the pupil more often, before lessons or in their lunch break. Every bit of conversation will encourage them to feel more comfortable speaking.
  • Always encourage them to take part in speaking activities – but ask them beforehand if they’re comfortable doing so.

Remember that having a stammer does not need to stop pupils from achieving. I did not let my stammer stop me from being a teacher and if I can do it, then so can other children.

All my pupils receive additional support from a speech and language therapist. If you are in doubt, speak to your SENCO or your local speech and language therapy team for more assistance. 

Ask yourself, do you take your ability to speak fluently for granted? My stammer has defined me. Surprisingly perhaps, its impact has been, overall, positive. Despite the challenges, I believe I am a better teacher because of my stammer.

Abed Ahmed is Head of Maths at King Edwards VI Handsworth Wood Girls’ Academy in Birmingham, and runs free student support groups via Zoom - Mr ST’s Stammer Support Group – for 5 to 16-year olds. Abed won the Nasen Teacher of the Year Award at the 2021.