How To ‘Deal’ With a Child Who Stutters

Did you see this article in the New York Times? Seems a college professor has made the determination that one of her students has no right to speak during class hours. She even e-mailed him saying as much. According to the article:

After the first couple of class sessions, in which [Philip Garber, Jr.] participated actively, the professor, an adjunct named Elizabeth Snyder, sent him an e-mail asking that he pose questions before or after class, “so we do not infringe on other students time.” As for questions she asks in class, Ms. Snyder suggested, “I believe it would be better for everyone if you kept a sheet of paper on your desk and wrote down the answers.”

Sounds crazy, right? Well, in Snyder’s world, it is all rationalized and justified by a simple fact: Philip speaks with a stutter.

Come on, people! Precious time can not be wasted on waiting for one person to get his words out in a fashion that meets the needs of everyone else! Of course! He must be silenced! Why doesn’t everyone chip in to buy him a muzzle? Or better yet, switch up the classrooms – ha! He won’t know where to go!

I mean, seriously. What the hell?

I had a student once who had a very pronounced stutter. Do you think it ever crossed my mind that I should subtly suggest other ways to participate demand he keep his mouth shut and his hand down? Of course it didn’t. That such a thought would ever cross a teacher’s mind – and then be put into action, no less! – is altogether pathetic and frightening.

This student of mine was quite a piece of work. He was easily the funniest kid in the class, with a real sharp sense of humor. In fact, if ever I needed a group picture and needed everyone smiling at once, I’d call out to him, “Say something funny!” and it worked like a charm. He had a confidence about him that was incredible. He always participated (sometimes academically, sometimes not) and never showed any concern for being in front of the class with words tripping out of his mouth. He was pretty awesome in that regard, but obviously, it took him longer to speak full thoughts than other kids.

So of course, you might be wondering what I did to deal with him and his impingement on our precious, valuable time. Here is how I dealt with him:


I didn’t complete his sentences for him (they were his words, not mine). I didn’t nod at him to encourage him to go faster (the same way I didn’t nod at any other kids). I didn’t avoid calling on him or bringing him to the front of the room (he deserved the same chances everyone else did, and wanted them, too). I didn’t look at my watch or the clock when he was speaking (I was too busy listening to him).

When I saw this young man two years later, he seemed to be stuttering less. He had been attending therapy (after I had to help convince him that going didn’t make him “crazy”) and it was working. He never lacked for confidence, but I can only imagine that the way I and his classmates respected him that year helped him learn to work with having a stutter.

I only wish Ms. Snyder could have been a visitor to our classroom then. She could have learned a valuable lesson.



2 responses to “How To ‘Deal’ With a Child Who Stutters

  1. I was shocked to see that this was a real situation. What century does this prof live in? How are we going to change our world if people hang on to ridiculous beliefs of one human being better than another?? I am curious to find out what happened to this prof. I hope she was fired.

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