“The world is in your palm” sounded like a clichéd quote until this year. A global epidemic has forced almost everything to go digital. Education has not been an exception to this.

There can hardly be any argument on the various benefits of remote learning. However, there is no rose without thorns. 

From technological limitations to connectivity issues, online education has its fair share of problems. While these are mostly mechanical and universal issues, there are a few specific & humanitarian problems. 

Currently, more than 70 million people stutter worldwide. It is most common in kids between 2-6 years old. 5-10% of all children are likely to stutter at some point in their lives.  

Children with stuttering (CWS) are not very confident about how people will react to their stutter. As a result, they often fail to engage in class discussions.

With classes going digital, CWS neither have adequate time to share their views, nor are they getting an all-inclusive environment to participate. Subsequently, the rate of participation has decreased.

It is essential to ensure that a child does not feel left out because of his or her stuttering. With a few simple steps, we can create a stutter-friendly environment.   

Here, we will look at some of the best ways parents, schools, teachers, and other institutions can create a stutter-friendly e-learning environment: 

1. Letting People Know

Change always starts with one’s self. We will be able to create a stutter-friendly virtual environment when we are aware of someone’s disfluency.

It does not necessarily mean treating someone specially. 

Instead, we need to ensure that the environment is inclusive and the child feels he or she is a part of it.

As children try to hide their stutter, they evade participation in discussions. This nolens volens isolate themselves from their classmates. 60% of teenagers rarely talk about their stuttering with people.

Hence, Speech-Language Pathologists (SLP) encourage children to open up about their stutter. It requires courage, but there are various ways of doing it.

One can choose to inform the teacher, who can subsequently convey it to the class. Others might do it themselves. 

A child can use a humorous way of disclosing it. For example –

“I would request the moderator to allow me an extra minute for my debate argument because I stutter.”

Different people find different options comforting, but the underlying aim remains the same. Our speech mechanism works in such a way that it fails to operate smoothly under tension.

By letting people know about your disfluency, you are getting the fear of public reaction out of the way. With reduced tension, speaking becomes much smoother.

2. Being a Patient Listener

Once a child has disclosed his or her stuttering, it is up to the teachers to do their part.

In the times of online education, we might confuse someone’s stuttering as an internet issue. Some might even think that the speaker does not know what to say. 

In reality, CWS knows perfectly well what to say. Only that they take a bit longer than usual to say it. To make the classroom environment inclusive, we should be patient listeners.

The “seven-second rule” is a common practice in use. It says – once you ask a question to a CWS, wait for seven seconds for the response.

Ensure that your non-verbal cues show you’re interested in what the child has to say. In this way, we can make the classrooms stutter-friendly.

3. Allow Different Ways of Class Participation

Adherence to rigid rules of physical classes might deter a child’s participation. The teachers should allow and encourage different ways of engaging in online class discussions.

For example, if a child is not confident about speaking during an online session, teachers can let them use the chat function. If someone does not feel comfortable presenting something to an online audience, teachers can encourage use of pre-recorded videos.

Not all vases are cast in the same way. By encouraging different ways of involvement, we take a significant leap towards an all-embracing milieu.

4. Understanding Technological Know-how

In most platforms, the person to feature on the screen is the speaker. This makes it difficult for a CWS to be on the screen.

Firstly, if a CWS pauses on a word and someone interrupts, the screen will switch to the new speaker. To prevent this, we need to ensure that we don’t speak unless the child has finished his statement.

Also, since we will be on-screen only when we speak, it might be difficult for  a child who stutters to get their points in. The solution to this technological problem is the technology itself.

The most commonly used platform for hosting online classes, Zoom has a “hand-raising” feature. By using it, we let everyone know that we have something to say.

Every platform has features to make people know someone wants to speak. By using them, we are ensuring everyone gets a chance to speak.

Inclusion Is the Only Solution

Eminent influencer and social commentator Verna Myers once said –

“Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.”

With online education being the new normal, the feeling of being left out among CWS has increased. Our solitary goal should be to make our virtual learning environment stutter-friendly and all-inclusive.

When the children feel they truly belong to the class, they are more likely to engage in various learning activities. 

A teacher’s job isn’t easy in the current times. However, by taking a few steps, we can ensure that a young mind does what it is meant to – express freely without any inhibition.Parents, too, can play an important role. Besides creating a stutter-friendly online learning environment at home, they can encourage kids to practice stuttering exercises to reduce their stutters.