Takato Shimizu is an undergraduate student at Tokyo Keizai University, Japan, and majors in Business Administration. He shows symptoms of stuttering. He is interested in reasonable accommodations for stuttering implemented in schools globally. This paper was written in English with the support from his English instructor.
Many students in Japan who stutter have a hard time participating in classroom activities. For instance, they often need to read textbooks aloud. However, this issue does not receive sufficient consideration.
This paper investigates how stuttering affects students in Japan and proposes the kinds of reasonable accommodations that can be implemented in classrooms to ensure an effective learning environment for students who stutter. Furthermore, I will discuss potential problems that may arise when implementing reasonable accommodations.
- Problems of students who stutter
Students in Japan who stutter face many problems in their lives. They often experience anxiety, have less self-confidence, avoid communication with others, and sometimes become targets of teasing and bullying (Kobayashi 2009, 2011).
These students also encounter difficulties in the classroom. One of the most painful classroom activities for them is reading something aloud in front of the whole class (Mikami & Morinaga 2006). Many students who stutter have been made fun of by other students for not being able to read textbooks smoothly. They are often mistaken as not knowing how to read kanji (Chinese characters) just because they stutter. The problem in reading texts aloud is that students are not allowed to paraphrase the material. Similar problems arise when students introduce themselves at the beginning of the school year or give commands for the whole class (e.g., “Stand up!”, “Bow!”). They often come with set expressions in Japanese, and it is difficult to paraphrase them. The problems are summarized below:
(1) Classroom activities considered particularly difficult for students in Japan who stutter:
2a. Reading textbooks aloud
2b. Introducing themselves
2c. Giving commands
According to Kobayashi (2009, 2011), about half of Japanese students who stutter wish to receive support from their teachers to deal with their stuttering.
- Reasonable accommodations
3.1 Definition of reasonable accommodations in Japan
This subsection introduces the definition of reasonable accommodations by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan (MEXT). At the same time, it should be noted that MEXT does not seem to pay much attention to stuttering when discussing reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities.
Reasonable accommodation is a concept proposed in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities adopted by the United Nations in 2006 and ratified by Japan in 2014. MEXT defines it as follows:
(2) Definition of reasonable accommodation by MEXT:
“Necessary and appropriate changes and adjustments made by schools to ensure that children with disabilities enjoy and exercise their right to have education on an equal basis with other children.” (MEXT 2010)
In addition, denial of such reasonable accommodations will be considered discrimination against students with disabilities. Nevertheless, MEXT notes that reasonable accommodation should be implemented within a reasonable range and should not give any unbalanced or excessive burden on schools.
According to Yuasa, Arai, and Yoshida (2019) schools in Japan are expected to implement reasonable accommodations in three ways.
(3) Implementation of reasonable accommodations:
3a. Improve the school environment
3b. Innovate teaching materials and methods
3c. Use information technologies
Examples of (3a) include setting slopes for wheelchairs and providing subtitles on videos for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. (3b) refers to making school curriculums flexible enough to provide better education for students with diverse disabilities. The information technologies mentioned in (3c) allow students to use computers for note-taking and use text-to-speech functions, for example.
Unfortunately, I do not see any mention of stuttering in the documents related to MEXT. This seems to be one of the reasons why students who stutter come across so many problems that are mentioned in (1). In fact, I have some symptoms of stuttering myself, and I did not have any opportunities to request reasonable accommodations throughout my school education simply because I was not aware of such a concept. In the next section, I will propose some examples of reasonable accommodation in schools in Japan.
3.2 Proposal: Reasonable accommodations for stuttering
Based on (3), as well as on my experience as a stuttering student, I will propose examples of reasonable accommodations in schools in Japan.
(4) Proposal: Possible reasonable accommodation for stuttering in Japanese schools
4a. Improve the school environment
Raise awareness among teachers and students.
4b. Innovate teaching materials and methods
Allow students who stutter to read texts aloud with someone else.
4c. Use information technologies
Allow students who stutter to use text-to-speech functions of computers when necessary.
Let me comment on (4).
(4a) Raising awareness among teachers and students creates a basis for the implementation of reasonable accommodations. It is necessary for teachers and students to deepen their understanding of stuttering so that teachers and students can create an environment where students who stutter can express their opinions without worrying about being laughed at.
(4b) Allowing students who stutter to read texts aloud with someone else is recommended by some experts on stuttering. Stuttering is less likely to occur when patients read something with someone else (Kikuchi 2019). The same method can be easily extended to other activities such as introducing oneself, giving commands to the whole class, and other activities that involve fixed expressions.
(4c) Allowing students who stutter to use text-to-speech functions of computers when necessary is very effective when students give presentations. If students use computers to give presentations, they can use not only the text-to-speech functions, but also project tables and diagrams. These images will allow students to utter fewer words.
- Potential problems in implementing reasonable accommodation for stuttering
The reasonable accommodations proposed in (4) are simple. However, I do not think that it is easy to conduct them in Japanese classrooms. In this section, I discuss potential problems.
For example, when stuttering students request reasonable accommodations, some people may immediately address an issue of “fairness.” Will teachers consider reasonable accommodation fair enough? How about classmates? If classmates feel that this is unfair, it will create a very difficult situation for stuttering students. Can they discuss and fill this gap? Will there be a healthy environment for discussion? What follows is a list of potential problems:
(5) Potential problems in implementing reasonable accommodations in Japanese classrooms
5a. Lack of awareness of stuttering by students, teachers, and their schools
5b. Lack of dialogue between stuttering students, teachers, and their schools
5c. Insufficient explanation about reasonable accommodations by teachers for students
I would like to explain (5) in more detail. First, it is important that all stakeholders listed in (5a) have a good awareness of stuttering. Otherwise, it is difficult for students to request reasonable accommodations. It is hard for them to raise their voices unless they know that they are respected. Thus, it is recommended that heads of educational institutions show leadership and present their awareness on their website so that students who stutter feel safe to raise their voice. Reasonable accommodation should be based on evidence from medicine. It is a good idea for teachers to participate in workshops by experts on stuttering. Second, the lack of dialogue pointed out in (5b) can easily prevent reasonable accommodations from taking place. Thus, it is important to have the rules of dialogue in advance. Otherwise, requests can be forgotten or ignored. Third, reasonable accommodations are effective only when teachers provide good explanations for students so that no one considers them “unfair.”
In this paper, I have introduced the problems that students who stutter face in schools in Japan and suggested some ideas for reasonable accommodations. The suggested accommodations are simple. Nevertheless, I argue that the true challenge is applying them to the classroom setting. As someone who stutters, I strongly feel that “it is easier said than done,” and I hope to see real change in classrooms in Japan in the near future.
Kikuchi, Y. (2012). Ebidensuni motozuita kitsuon shien nyuumon [An Introduction to Stuttering Support Based on Evidence]. Tokyo: Gakuensha.
Kikuchi, Y. (2019). Kitsuon no sekai [The World of Stuttering]. Tokyo: Kohbunsha.
Kikuchi, Y. (2019). Kitsuon no gouriteki hairyo [Reasonable Accommodation for Stuttering]. Tokyo: Gakuensha.
Kobayashi, H. (2011). Gakureiki kitsuon ni taisuru tamenteki houkatsuteki apuroochi [A Multifaced and Comprehensive Approach to School-Age Stuttering]. Journal of SpecialEducation Vol.49, No.3, pp305-315.
Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Japan. (2010).
Tokubetsu shien kyouiku no arikata ni kansuru tokubetuiinkai (Dai 3 kai) haihusiryou siryou 3: Gouritekihairyo ni tsuite. [Special committee on the state of special support education (3rd meeting) Handout Document 3: Reasonable Accommodation]. Retrieved on 2021.8.4 from:
Yuasa,Y., Yoshida, S., & Arai, H., (2019). Yokuwakaru inkuruusibu kyooiku
[Understanding Inclusive Education]. Tokyo: Minerva Shobo.
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