Bullying with Stuttering

What do you tell a school aged child who is being bullied or teased about his/her stuttering how to handle the situation?

What do you tell parents of a stuttering child who have to deal with judgmental people/family about what to say that ‘s appropriate and helpful in a hurtful situation.

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Bullying with Stuttering — 2 Comments

  1. Hi-

    Great question! Bullying is definitely a very important topic to discuss in therapy – especially nowadays as it seems like there are so many more and different ways that bullying is occurring.

    There are some really great children’s books out there that deal with bullying. I often start by reading one of those books and then having a discussion with my client about it. If bullying has occurred, our clients may feel initially hesitant to talk about their experiences, and so talking about someone else’s experiences may create some space. Often we talk about why people may bully. We also talk about teasing and bullying – and the differences that may exist between the two. We then often work to come up with a list of things that we can do if bullying occurs. For many of our clients, they may not encounter bullying; however, knowing what to do if it happens may help them to feel more comfortable and confident overall.

    After creating our list of options, we often visualize a specific situation in which bullying has occurred and talk through what we might do if it happened again. Or, we role play the situation. Usually the client loves to be the bully – and I will play the role of the client.

    We also talk about how our friends, family members, and peers may not understand stuttering or know what to do that is helpful. They may be trying to help – but they may not be going about it in a way that is helpful. This is different than bullying; however, it can still be painful and upsetting. In situations like this, it may be helpful to talk to your client about what stuttering is and is not – so that they are able to advocate for themselves and teach others about stuttering. Maybe you work together to come up with a handout to give family, friends, and teachers. The handout may have fun facts about your clients, some facts about stuttering, things that you client wants others to do when they stutter, and things they do not want others to do when they stutter. Creating something like this can also help foster open communication about stuttering with those in your client’s circle.

    Hope this helps!
    ~Jaime Michise

  2. Thanks for your post. And, thanks, Jaime, for your excellent response.

    Helping children overcome the problems associated with bullying is one of the most important tasks we can accomplish as speech-language pathologists who work with children who stutter. Research shows that children who stutter are more likely to experience bullying that other children. Because of their communication challenges, it can be particularly hard for children who stutter to respond when they are being bullied. (Verbal responses in emotional situations may be difficult!)

    Fortunately, there is much that we can do. I rely heavily on work done by Bill Murphy and Bob Quesal in this area. They wrote a treatment guide (which Nina Reardon-Reeves and I are also co-authors on) entitled “Minimizing Bullying for Children Who Stutter.” It includes a 6-step treatment program that focuses on helping SLPs accomplish the following goals: teaching children more stuttering and bullying so they are prepared to address the bullying; helping children reduce their negative reactions to stuttering and bullying; teaching children how to respond to the child engaging in the bullying behavior in order to reduce the likelihood of further bullying; and incorporating parents, teachers, and others into the bullying management plan so the child has a strong support network.

    We have posted several free videos about how we address bullying in children who stutter on our website (www.StutteringTherapyResources.com/resources) and youtube channel. Perhaps those will be helpful.

    Thanks again for your post.