Straight talk for teaching students about stuttering in schools

22 September 2014

Final year teaching students at the University of Sydney will be schooled on the importance of early intervention and the treatment of stuttering as part of program to help prepare them for the classroom.

Researchers from the University's Faculty of Health Sciences will host an education forum today to deliver knowledge about stuttering to future teachers, to raise their awareness about the prevalence of speech disorders, and to arm them with advice about how to help students who stutter.

Associate Professor Ann Packman from the University's Australian Stuttering Research Centre (ASRC) said the aim of the forum was to build early professional relationships between teachers and speech pathologists and help equip teachers to support students who stutter.

"Approximately one per cent of school students stutter, so it's very likely that at some point during their career a teacher will be confronted with how to support a student in their classroom with this problem," Associate Professor Packman said.

"Stuttering can have a disabling effect on students during their school years, affecting their relationships with teachers and peers, their self-confidence and academic performance.

"The evidence is students who stutter are more likely to experience bullying and perform poorly, which is why it is so important to help teachers so they know how to help these students thrive in the classroom and reach their education potential."

Associate Professor Packman said it was important to raise awareness among teachers about stuttering because early intervention is critical.

"Speech pathologists recommend early intervention to treat stuttering, because therapy is very effective when a child is young and their brain is not yet fully 'hard-wired'," Associate Professor Packman said.

"Speech pathologists are trained to treat speech disorders, but our teachers interact with children on a daily basis and are on the frontline when it comes to identifying early signs of distress in children who stutter.

"Treating school-aged children requires special sensitivity, so it's critical to regularly host events like this to build awareness and help ensure the next generation of teachers knows where to turn for help."

Researchers at the University are currently developing better stuttering treatments for primary and high school children, including an online Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) for speech-related anxiety.

The University of Sydney forum is a collaboration between stuttering support group Speak Easy, the ASRC, and the University's Faculty of Education and Social Work.

Forum details:

Date: Monday, 22 September (1.00pm - 2.00pm)

Venue: Woolley Lecture Theatre N395

John Woolley Building - A20 (off Science Road)

Camperdown Campus

The University of Sydney

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