Updated: March 25, 2013 6:20AM
Dr. Wallace: I teach high school speech and English. One of my speech students has a severe stuttering problem. I would really like to help him overcome this handicap. I have gathered some useful information, but I was told by my principal to contact you because he remembers reading about stuttering in your column.
Is it possible that you might enlighten me on this subject?
Teacher, St. Louis, Mo.
Teacher: Most of my information on stuttering comes from the Stuttering Foundation of America. This wonderful non-profit organization has an abundance of reference materials to help friends, parents and teachers with those who stutter.
The following are recommendations they offer when working with someone who stutters:
Refrain from making remarks like “Slow down,” “Take a breath” or “Relax.” Such simplistic advice can be perceived as demeaning and is never helpful.
Maintain natural eye contact and try not to look embarrassed or shocked. Just wait patiently until the person is finished. You will be tempted to finish sentences or fill in words. Try not to do this. (You can relate to this one).
Use a relatively slow, relaxed rate in your own conversational speech, but not so slow as to sound unnatural.
Let the person know by your manner and actions that you are listening to what he or she says, not how they say it.
Be aware that those who stutter usually have more trouble controlling their speech while on the telephone. Please be extra patient in this situation. If the phone rings and you hear nothing when you answer, make sure before you hang up that it’s not a person who stutters trying to initiate conversation.
Please contact the Stuttering Foundation at the toll-free telephone number 1-800-992-9392, or email at email@example.com. Write to them at P.O. Box 11749, Memphis, TN 38111-0749.
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