A guide for anyone who stammers at primary or secondary school.
*If you are a teacher looking to support a child who stammers, see our Guide For Teachers page instead.
School is a big part of a young person's life. If you stammer, you might be worried about talking. There's answering the register and reading aloud in class to deal with. Or doing presentations and speaking in drama lessons.
It might be on your mind a lot now. But how you feel about stammering will probably change as you grow older. And there are lots of things that can help make school easier.
My stammer really affected me at school. My English teacher didn't know why I refused to speak during presentations and I sat at the back to avoid the spotlight.
Talking about stammering
We know it can be scary to talk about stammering. You might hope that if you don't talk about it, then it will go away. But stammering doesn't work like that. If you don't talk about it, other people won't know how to help you.
If stammering is making you anxious, talking about it might help you stop imagining the worst. Talking with someone can give you a new perspective and build your confidence.
You might find it helpful to tell your teacher about your stammer. Explain to them what would make things easier for you. If you're worried about talking to a teacher, why not try someone you trust first? It could be a friend, a brother or sister, or your parents. Your parents could even come with you to talk with your teacher about it.
Some people find it helpful to give a short talk to their class about stammering. If you have a speech & language therapist, they could help you with this, or come and do it with/for you.
We know it can be tough. But being open about stammering will help other people understand what it's like for you. It will help them find out what they can do to support you.
Making changes at school
My new sixth form were really eager to be inclusive and asked what adjustments would make things easier for me.
Not everyone needs extra support at school for their stammer. But if you do it's OK to ask for help. For example, do you find waiting for your turn to read out loud in class puts added pressure on you? Ask your teacher if you can go first. Or if you can put your hand up or give your teacher a sign to let them know when you want your turn.
Talk with your teachers about situations which worry you. For example, ask them about changing the way you answer the register. Or when answering questions in class. Or even ask for extra time for oral tests at GCSE.
These types of changes are known as 'reasonable adjustments'. Download our 'Reasonable adjustments in education' guide below. It has examples of adjustments or changes you can ask for. Stammering is protected by a piece of law called the Equality Act. This means your school has a legal obligation to make changes if you need them.
Bullying & teasing
We know that bullying happens. Sometimes people might tease or bully you because of your stammer. It's important to remember that it is not your fault. Teasing and bullying for stammering is not right and it's not acceptable.
If you're able to talk openly about stammering, it can be the best defence against teasing or bullying. If your reaction is "It's just a stammer, so what?" bullies have less to work with.
Talk to people you trust so they can help to stop the bullying. If you are being bullied at school, or you know someone who is, find someone you trust such as a parent or teacher. Tell them about it so that action can be taken.
Talking to new people isn't always easy if you stammer. You might be worried about what someone might think or even if they'll laugh at you. When you first meet someone, it is your choice if you want to talk about your stammer. Some people find it helpful to get stammering out in the open, but if that's not you then that's OK. You don't have to change who you are to make friends. A good friend will like you for who you are, not the way you talk.
Getting Extra Support
There's lots of good support out there. So if you would like some extra help with your speech then go for it. See Children's (& teenager's) Stammering Therapy Options for how to access speech & language therapy and stammering courses.
Depressed or in crisis?
Being young brings its own pressures, whether you stammer or not. If you are feeling worried, anxious or depressed, you're not alone. Help is out there.
Sometimes things can seem overwhelming. It needn't be like that. If you reach a point where your feelings boil over, there are people out there who will listen.
- Start a webchat or phone our helpline. We are open Mondays to Thursdays, 10am-2pm and 4pm-8pm. You can talk to someone who knows what it's like to stammer. It's free, confidential and anonymous. Or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll get back to you.
- Our STAMMA — Space For Stammering Facebook group is open for everyone aged 13+.
- The Mix is the UK's leading support service for young people. Free, confidential, anonymous. Talk to The Mix online or call 0808 808 4994.
- CALM, The Campaign Against Living Miserably, is for men and boys hitting crisis or feeling down. Confidential, anonymous, free. Phone: 0800 58 58 58 (daily, 5pm to midnight) or contact them on webchat.
- Samaritans: You can talk to someone, anytime of the day or night and they'll listen, on 116 123 or email email@example.com
Other Sources of Support
- Listen to an episode of our podcast Around The Block. In it, hosts Gemma & Matty share their stories of stammering at school.