This is an excerpt of Chapter 4 from the book Do You Stutter: A Guide for Teens.
By Hugo H. Gregory, Ph.D.
Coping with your stuttering in the school environment is doubly important because you spend so much of your time there and because talking in school is vital to your success as a student. The kind of impression you feel that you are making contributes to the feelings you have about yourself. Participating in class activities, interacting with fellow students and teachers, and therapy as related to school activities, are topics teenagers who stutter say that they think about a 
great deal.
Reciting in Class
Almost all who stutter have experienced the frustration of saying, “I don’t know,” when they did know, rather than take the chance of stuttering as they answered a question in class. At that moment, fear of stuttering is relieved, but later you feel frustrated because you are not demonstrating your true potential.
Students who stutter always refer to the anticipation of what they call “reading up and down the rows.” Nonstuttering students scan ahead to see if there are words they don’t know or can’t pronounce. You scan ahead in a reading passage to see if there are words you may stutter on in the section you anticipate reading when it is your turn. But, not only are you fearing being blocked, a very threatening experience; you may also be wondering if a student will laugh. You may dislike the possibility that students are uncomfortable when you speak. As a result of previous difficulty and these reactions, you experience more fear and tension.
Giving reports is another commonly feared situation, although some students do better when they get up before the class and know that they have full attention. Some find that practicing a report many times alone makes it easier when giving the report in class.
You might want to ask the teacher to give you more time during class discussion if you have found it easier when you take your time. Time pressure—your feeling that you must not keep your listener waiting and that you may not be able to start talking again if you pause—may cause you to speak more rapidly and be afraid to pause. By not hurrying, you reduce this time pressure.
Although it is hard to participate in class discussion and answer questions when you anticipate stuttering, avoiding such situations appears to increase tension and stuttering. One junior high school girl who had made much improvement in her speech experienced insecurity about entering high school. She told her teachers that she would be more comfortable if not called upon to recite in class. After a few weeks of being excused from participating in speaking situations, her fear of speaking was greater and her speech became much worse.
Going ahead in spite of trouble usually makes one feel better—and is better for you! However, avoiding and not talking or being willing to speak even though you stutter are both difficult.
Getting therapy in which you are learning to change or modify your speech, deal with time pressure, and decrease your stuttering in situations varying systematically from easy to more difficult, is the most positive and the most hopeful way of improving your participation in school activitiets. You and the speech pathologist can plan with your teacher the ways in which you are going to work therapy procedures into your classroom speaking situations.
Students’ Reactions
“A lot of kids feel bad about themselves, so they try to make others feel bad.”
“People try to find things that are wrong with others. Stutter­ing is very obvious.”
These statements by two junior high school students who are in therapy reflect a way in which many students interpret negative reactions to their stuttering.
In the teen years there is much mixed emotion. Students try to build themselves up by cutting others down. Psychologists believe this reaction is the basis for much of the prejudice that exists today. Students who stutter have admitted that they have made fun of fellow students who are, for example, overweight. Then it dawns on them that they are doing the very thing they believe others should not do to them. People who make fun of others are expressing their own inadequacy even if they don’t intend to hurt.
You can help your fellow students by being more open about your stuttering. This may be hard if you believe that by not thinking and not talking about it, the stuttering will disappear. Since you have reached your age and still have a problem, it may be time to be more realistic and open about it. Talk to friends. Talk to your teachers. And even talk to those who hassle you. Nothing stops them like saying, “Yes, I have a stut­ter­ing problem,” or “I sometimes stutter and I’m working 
on it.”
A girl who stutters, age 16, commented, “Kids get less mean as times goes on. But, you don’t have to wait it out. Give them some help.” A fourteen year old boy just beginning therapy
told me that he was taking more responsibility now for helping his friends at school feel more comfortable about his stuttering. He tells them about therapy and mentions his difficulty from time to time when he stutters. For example, he may say, “I really hit that sound hard. I can do it more easily.”
Teens tell me of being surprised to find that many people want to learn more about stuttering. For example, they may be very pleased by the interest shown when they make a classroom speech about stuttering. Of course, it is probably easier to be more open about your stuttering if you are receiving therapy and have greater hope of improvement.
The Teachers’ Reactions
Just as you like certain teachers better than others, you will or will not like the way some teachers react to you and your stuttering. From group sessions, I have found some teenagers prefer that teachers never say anything about their speech problem. Others appreciate their teachers’ interest and concern. One student said, “It irritated me that the teacher was giving me special attention.” Another said that she appreciated the teacher asking her after school, “Is there some way in which I can help?”
How can we explain these differences? If you and your family have participated in “a conspiracy of silence” about your stuttering at home, then you may have adopted a policy of not talking about your speech and not wanting anyone at school to mention it. This attitude of going it alone can be tough!
Three teenage stutterers agreed in talking with me recently that it is better to talk with teachers about your problem “if it can be done in an intelligent way.” By “intelligent” they meant that teachers talk with them about their feelings and what they think could help them to participate more successfully in class.
If they were receiving therapy, they wanted the speech pathologist and the teacher to include them in discussions—not to talk behind their backs. There are differences in the ways teachers relate to a sensitive matter, but sometimes your own sensitivity may hamper a teacher’s efforts.
Some teachers, perhaps due to a lack of experience with students who stutter, may be puzzled and uncomfortable when you stutter. They may be embarrassed. Talking with such teachers may help them to deal with their own feelings and to be more comfortable.
The School Situation and Stuttering Therapy
Some students who stutter don’t want it known that they are in speech therapy, and others simply refuse to have therapy in school. You should not feel guilty about this because it results in part from the ways in which people have reacted to you and your stuttering problem. You have a right to be embarrassed!
Later, as your speech is improving in therapy, as you are feeling less alone in coping with your difficulty, and as you are becoming less sensitive, you may be more willing for others to know that you are working on your speech.
As you improve, you and your speech pathologist can use the school to work on your speech in settings of varying difficulty. In this connection, you may wish to talk to your teachers about your therapy goals—either alone or with your clinician. Most teens I’ve worked with have been willing to show what they are doing in therapy to their friends.
Oftentimes, when audio and video recordings are made, the student in therapy realizes how much better his good speech skills are compared to those of the friend. This is very rewarding! Speaking better often sounds and feels strange at first and you are hesitant to think that your friends will notice you are different. However, you are more likely to be aware of changes in your speech than anyone else. Therapy helps you accept the change involved in speaking better.
By establishing realistic goals and taking responsibility, you can speak better and better and feel more and more comfortable about it.
Posted Sept. 14, 2015
Hide on More News: