If a child cannot learn the way I teach, then I must teach the way he learns.
--Anna Gillingham, educator and psychologist

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Bullying + Stuttering

Dr. Ian Roth and Dr. Deryk Beal recently published some facts about the connection between bullying and stuttering.

·        Bullying comes in many forms and degrees – physical, verbal, a look of intimidation, or social alienation
·        A recent case study showed that over 80% of a group of children who stutter have been bullied on account of their speech difference.
·        Common forms of bullying in children who stutter is imitation and name-calling.
·        Children ages 11 – 13 years of age experience more bullying than any other age.
·        Children who are teased are generally anxious, insecure, cautious, depressed, and have low self esteem (Banks 1997).

Self Esteem
·        Self esteem insecurities typically begin to show in children ages eight and above
·        Children who stutter are often excluded from peer groups, making a child who is an inadequate speaker feel like he or she is an inadequate person
·        Preschool-aged children receive affirmation and acceptance from home, so teasing tends not to affect self-esteem at this age yet
·        Communication expert Arun Khanna, of the Stuttering Association of Toronto, argues that self-esteem tends to return by late adolescence.
·        Self-help groups that allow stutterers speak with others who stutter can be a worthwhile and productive activity.

Strategies for Parents

Preventive Measures
·        Parents should start looking for speech disfluencies between the ages of two and five in their children.
·        An open and honest parent-child relationship will help a stuttering child finesse the tough period of time where bullying may take place.
·        Assure your children that you are always willing to listen and help, especially around stuttering or teasing issues. 
·        Letting a child know that he or she is not alone when they are being teased is very important. 
·        Sharing personal stories about how a parent overcame teasing when they were young can impact a young child significantly. 
·        Despite a child’s stutter, parents should ensure that they accept and love the child as they are, stuttering and all.  

Reactive Measures
·        Parents should address teasing from siblings or peers and not let it go unrecognized.
·        Check with a school’s policy on teasing before sending your child to school, and talk with the classroom teacher and/or principal to be aware.
·        Special treatment should not be shown to a stuttering child, but adults should be on the lookout for potential teasing.

Strategies for the Child Who Stutters

Preventative Measures
·        Speech-language therapy is a common and effective tool for children to cope with teasing and empower them in their communication skills. For specific information on the speech-therapy services at Laughlin, visit our website or get in contact with one of our awesome speech-language pathologists at 412-741-4087

Reactive Measures
When face to face with a bully, a child can choose to do one of the following:
·        Avoid – The child can alter his/her own behavior to avoid the teaser, such as walking a different route home from school. The bully will lose interest.
·        Ignore – The child learns to ignore the bully when teasing occurs, not reacting and giving in the bully. The child may have to endure teasing for a long time before it stops.
·        Inform – The child informs an adult when teasing takes place, effective if the adults present can manage teasing well.  Parents are often more effective and willing to address teasing than teachers. 
·        Confront – The child learns to confront and inform the teaser.  An example may be for the stuttering child to say, “Yes, I stutter. It is a problem that is not my fault. Would you like to learn more about why I stutter or what you can do to help me?” If employed in a confident manner, this strategy can empower children who stutter, but may be difficult.
·        Witticism – The child learns to make light of his own stuttering problem in front of the bully.  This strategy will benefit children who think quickly and have the confidence to implement it.  It is not an easily-coachable strategy. 

Friends & Siblings
·        Children who are closest to children who stutter should be part of that child’s support system.
·        Allow the stutterer extra time to speak, not to interrupt, and not to fnish their sentences.

Teachers & The School Setting
·        School requires a lot of opportunities for children to speak in front of large groups. 
·        Teachers should have a sensitivity to these tasks, not asking children who stutter to be put outside of their comfort zone. 
·        Teachers should proactively look for teasing, address it immediately, and uphold respect for others in the classroom. 

The more aware that the world is about the types of speech and language disorders, the better that understanding can be reached and bullying put to an end.  An initiative such as listing famous people who stutter, like Michael J. Fox, is a great way to validate the disorder to children. Reminding people that stuttering is nobody’s fault, and that bullying or teasing is wrong. 

This paper was submitted for SLP 1529H Fluency Disorders taught by Dr. Luc De Nil, Department of Speech-Language Pathology University of Toronto, May 28, 1999, and was added with permission June 1, 1999.  To read the full article, click here.

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