Hi experts! I’m a 2nd year SLP graduate student, and I have two questions,

  1. What advice would you give to a teenage person who stutters, who talks about being bullied in school?
  2. What advice would you give to the family of a child who has recently begun to stutter, but is likely to persist?

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Advice — 3 Comments

  1. Hello – Thanks for participating in this conference. Regarding bullying – oh, there is so much to say. Fortunately, we have had some wonderful colleagues who have written about the topic. In particular, I would refer you to the writings of Bill Murphy, Bob Quesal, and Nina Reardon-Reeves. (Disclosure: I have written with them and have published a commercially available guide to minimizing bullying that is designed to address exactly this question.) Put simply, the more a teen (or any other person) can come to terms with stuttering, the easier it is to withstand the comments of bullies and other who may seek to cause them to feel bad. If one feels bad about something, it is easier for other people to bully them; if one does not feel as bad about something, then even if others comment on that thing, then the person will not feel as bad about it. Therefore treatment activities designed to minimize negative reactions to stuttering can provide a strong foundation for helping people overcome the problem of bullying. Just becoming less concerned is not enough, though. People can learn to further reduce the occurrence and effects of bullying by responding appropriately when bullying occurs. Research shows that simple, matter-of-fact responses that acknowledge the difference and the bullying can help to minimize further bullying comments. And, even that is not enough, for it is also important to educate the other people in the teen’s environment (so-called “bystanders”) about stuttering and about bullying to reduce the likelihood that they will “go along with” the bully and thereby compound the problem. SO, there is much that can be done – a skilled clinician can help a teen work through the problems associated with bullying so it does not cause further difficult for a person. AND, it is important to do this because (a) those who stutter are more likely to experience bullying than those who do not stutter and (b) bullying can make stuttering – and the consequences of stuttering – more severe. Thus, I encourage you and all clinicians to take a very active role in minimizing the occurrence and effects of bullying for those who stutter. (Your comment is very timely because October is National Bullying Prevention Month in the USA.)
    Please feel free to post follow-up questions. Also, you can find free videos and handouts about minimizing bullying at
    Take care

    J Scott Yaruss, PhD, CCC-SLP BCS-F, F-ASHA

  2. Scott’s advice is certainly sound and the resources good. I just want to quickly emphasize something you undoubtedly already know: there is no universal solution to bullying. Ignoring the bully might take the fun out of it for him, but that could take a while; staying in crowds might dissuade some bullies but there’s the potential problem of the bystanders noted in Scott’s response; and so on. I mention this for 2 reasons: 1) it might take some time to work through the issue and 2) I don’t want you to beat yourself up if your first idea isn’t effective. It’s a complex issue, especially with teens who aren’t always the most communicative about what’s going on. I’m glad you’re taking it on because it is very important for the client. I wish you the best.

  3. Hi,
    I would like to refer to your second question. I believe that giving advice in this kind of situation can be a very hard task. It is very common that the parents of a child who begins to stutter are seeking our help to learn how to quickly eliminate stuttering symptoms. It is also possible that they have some negative feelings and thoughts related to stuttering. In many cases parents feel very helpless, unsure of what they should do and how to react. They may also blame themselves for the child’s stuttering. I suggest that we have to be sensitive and listen to them very carefully from the very beginning. Starting by giving advice may be an ineffective way of providing support. Parents may hear what we are trying to say, they might even agree with us but there is no guarantee that they will be able to simply adhere to our recommendations. I think that in the process of multidimensional diagnosis the parents have the opportunity to learn more about stuttering and understand this phenomenon better. They can also learn more about their own child – not only in terms of the child’s problems, limitations or restrictions but about the child’s strengths and capabilities. What is more they will have a chance to recognize their own resources and strengths – as parents and as the whole family. It is crucial for the effective intervention to empower parents to make them confident in dealing with every-day issues related to stuttering. It is also a very important to support them in changing their perception from focusing on the problem to looking for good solutions. It is about collaborative work – parents with the support of the SLP – on changing their attitudes toward stuttering instead of seeing it as a disaster to perceiving it as a challenge, which can be a source of development and progress for the whole family. The more the parents are aware of how important it is to support the child in building adequate self-esteem and making him/her a confident communicator the better they can assist the child in dealing with communication in every-day life. Of course we should also assure parents that we can teach the child some tools to better cope with stuttering but it is important that the child feels he/she is being accepted for the way he/she is. We should do everything possible to help the parents make it a reality that their child feels that for them the most important thing is what he/she is saying regardless of whether he/she stutters or not! However, I have to admit that sometimes it is a long process and it can take time…
    I hope you find my thoughts helpful….

    Katarzyna Węsierska