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NFL's Ellis Lankster Tackles Stuttering in the Classroom | NEWS-Line for School and Community Healthcare Professionals
NEWSRoom | Source:  

NFL's Ellis Lankster Tackles Stuttering in the Classroom

New York Jets cornerback Ellis Lankster vividly remembers his own difficulties with stuttering in the classroom.

“Some kids would tease me, some teachers didn’t know if they should call on me,” Lankster said. “If the teacher asked a question and it required a fast response, I wouldn’t even try to be part of the conversation even when I knew the answer. It makes you feel alone and different. No child should feel that way in school.”

Thankfully, Ellis refused to let it alter his dream of playing professional football.

When teachers hear a child stutter, the immediate reaction is one of concern mixed with a host of urgent questions:

· Should I call on the student in class, or will that only make it worse?

· How should I handle teasing and bullying by other students?

· What should I do about reading aloud in class?

The Stuttering Foundation is making Stuttering: Straight Talk for Teachers available on DVD just in time for the back-to-school season. This 18-minute DVD helps parents and teachers understand how stuttering can affect children of all ages in the classroom. The DVD highlights children discussing their experiences and sharing what was helpful for them.

Noted speech-language pathologists Bill Murphy, MA, of Purdue University and Kristin Chmela, MA, of Northwestern University present practical strategies teachers can use immediately to help children feel more comfortable talking in the classroom.

“The courage and honesty of the children sharing their experiences help teachers find solutions for their students,” said Murphy.

At school, children who stutter often face bullying and teasing, which sometimes causes more anxiety than does the speech disorder itself. Murphy suggests teachers make stuttering an open topic for discussion. One exercise a teacher can use is to discuss famous people who stutter.

“I remember Mrs. Smith, my 5th grade teacher back in Alabama,” said Lankster. “She really understood what it took to include me in the class. It made a real difference.”

In addition to Ellis Lankster, NBA basketball star Kenyon Martin, news anchor John Stossel, and actors James Earl Jones and Emily Blunt are just a few of the many celebrities who struggle with stuttering. A list of famous people who stutter and a downloadable poster can be found at

The DVD comes with a 32-page handbook of additional information and resources. For more information, contact the Stuttering Foundation at 800-992-9392 or online at or (Spanish).

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