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Stammering Information Programme for schools

Ali Berquez, Elaine Kelman & Effie Jarvis | 01.12.2010

An update - by Ali Berquez, Elaine Kelman & Effie Jarvis, The Michael Palin Centre for Stammering Children

Ed BallsFollowing a visit to the Michael Palin Centre for Stammering Children (MPC) by Ed Balls, former Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, in 2007, the MPC was commissioned to develop and run a project to raise awareness, knowledge and skills about stammering amongst education staff in England.

The project began with a Delphi research study to determine what children and young people who stammer, their parents, and members of the education workforce thought education staff should know about stammering. This generated 32 main messages to be communicated, including ideas about how to respond to pupils who stammer, how best to support them on a day to day basis, and where to go for further help.

Pupils who stammer aged four to eighteen took part in two days of filming at the MPC. They talked about their stammering and how school staff can be helpful. From this video footage, excerpts were lifted which reflected the key messages from the research study. The DVD 'Wait, wait, I'm not finished yet....' consists of two versions of the film, one of twenty minutes and a shorter version of ten minutes, as well as downloadable written resources.

'Wait, wait I'm not finished yet....' was launched by Ed Balls and Michael Palin in a primary school in Islington, North London, in October 2009. The DVD is now available free of charge for pupils who stammer and their parents, for speech and language therapists (SLTs), teachers, and SENCos in England to show to education staff. Approximately 3500 copies have been disseminated across England.

Feedback about the SIP

Preliminary feedback from members of the education workforce and from SLTs shows that nearly all respondents would recommend the resource to colleagues. More than 90% of respondents rated the DVD as 'good' to 'excellent'.

They have also commented on the information they are taking away from the DVD including: practical skills to support a pupil who stammers; knowledge about stammering; knowledge of how and when to seek further support; and the positive impact of the DVD and resources on their teams. One SENCo wrote: "it will help me support children who stammer more effectively and give me more confidence in supporting colleagues who are teaching children who stammer. It is very powerful seeing the children speaking about what is difficult and what helps."

Pie chart: Give time 28%; Praise 9%; Ask PWS what support they want 28%; Other 35%.Respondents have highlighted three key messages about supporting pupils who stammer.

Firstly, the need to give time to pupils who stammer so that they can finish what they want to say. Secondly, the importance of giving praise and encouragement to build their confidence so that they are able to perform to the best of their ability, and thirdly, that ultimately it is important to ask the pupil who stammers what support they would like - a vital message since every person who stammers has individual needs and they are in the best position to be able to tell education staff about what helps them. This was summed up by a Teacher Trainer who wrote: "the key message for the teaching assistants I showed it to was to ask the child what helps ' they tend to know best!"

For a copy of the DVD, email or view a short version online at

Supporting pupils who stammer in school

Pupils who stammer often worry about the consequences of stammering and about what other people will think of them because of their stammer. As a result of this worry they often say that they ask and answer fewer questions in class, even when they know the answers, and they volunteer less for speaking roles in plays, assemblies and presentations in school. This reduced participation can lead pupils who stammer to be seen as less able than they really are and can cause a great deal of frustration for pupils as well as education staff. In the longer term, stammering can affect a pupil's confidence and self-esteem and it may affect their career choices.

Pupils who stammer can be helped by people around them making simple changes, for example, giving them time to finish what they want to say, keeping natural eye contact, and being relaxed. In oral presentations and examinations some pupils find it helpful to have extra time, as trying to get the words out quickly can often lead to increased stammering. They have also said it may be helpful to do presentations in a smaller group instead of in front of the whole class. However, each pupil who stammers needs different types of support as stammering is highly individual and can vary from day to day and so adjustments need to be reviewed over time.

From Speaking Out Winter 2010, p.14

BSA's online resource for teachers is at (ed.)