Dealing with Bullies


For some cases for PWS, they face challenges at school when it comes to bullying. What are some ways that PWS have overcommed bullying? I had a bully growing up and I know how it feels to be picked apart and be torn down by someone. Therefore, what are some strategies, or advice that you would recommend tellingย  PWS to overcome these indivudals who pick on them?

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Dealing with Bullies — 2 Comments

  1. Oh, you’ve asked one of my favorite questions! Fortunately, there has been quite a bit of work done in our field about bullying of children who stutter. Dr. Gordon Blood, now retired from Penn State, documented the high level of occurrence of bullying of children who stutter through several studies. Dr. Marilyn Langevin, now retired from the University of Alberta developed a therapy program specifically focused on reducing bullying. And, Bill Murphy (now retired from Purdue University) and Dr. Bob Quesal (now retired from Western Illinois University) also developed a comprehensive program for minimizing bullying.

    Nina Reeves and I (neither of us retired…) collaborated with Bill and Bob on publishing their minimizing bullying work through a formal therapy program available from Stuttering Therapy Resources. You can find several free handouts and videos about the program on the STR website ( – just type “bullying” in the search bar.

    Basically, there are several steps that we can take to minimize both the occurrence and impact of bullying for children who stutter. Key aspects include desensitization to stuttering and elements of cognitive therapy (both acceptance-based and cognitive restructuring as appropriate) to reduce negative reactions to bullying.

    One of the most effective strategies involves openness about stuttering, combined with straightforward responses to the comments of the bullies. It’s paradoxical, because it’s common for people to want to try to hide their stuttering so that people won’t pick on them. But, once they start being more open, then find that others pick on them less because they see that they aren’t reacting negatively.

    Oh, there’s so much more to say on the topic – I can’t type it all here, but maybe check out the free videos and handouts I mentioned. And, feel free to send follow-up questions any time.

  2. Hello! Thank you so much for asking this question to the professional panel. I second the work that Dr. Yaruss cited- all amazing resources that you should for sure check out.

    Bullying can for sure be so stressful for a kiddo as I too had bullies (plural) but there was one head of the team so to speak and I remember things he said and did like it was yesterday. I am sorry that you had to experience bullying as a kid, and thank you so much for sharing that with us. Sometimes, we can use experiences that we ourselves have gone through, and turn them around to make a difference in the lives of other people- and it seems that’s exactly what you aim to do with asking this question. ๐Ÿ™‚

    One of my favorite things to do is a problem solving situation re: bullying. One of my amazing SLP friends, Katie Gore, told me that we have to teach children who stutter to “roll of their sleeves.” My first thought with this advice was, “Katie, are you telling me to tell my client to deck the other kid?” Well, no…. that’s no what she was saying. She meant that we have to teach them to fend for themselves.

    My brother (my older brother), is a person who stutters since the age of six. Even though he is 5 1/2 years older than I am, I can think back to moments when other people talked about his stuttering behind his back and I for sure wanted to deck them in the face… but didn’t. Nothing good would have come from the situation if I had. So, every time I have a kiddo I am treating that is bullied- my mama bear self comes out and wants to defend the kid myself and get involved!!! I want to call the other kid’s guardians, talk to their teachers, get them in trouble with the principal myself and give that kid a firm talking to! But… how would me doing that help the child who stutters? Sure- perhaps the bullying would stop- but in that scenario I taught the child who stutters to go get help from another person and not handle the situation themselves; I didn’t give them any agency in the situation, and gave them no carry-over/life application of skills of self advocacy. That’s not the answer, either.

    So- a child who stutters comes to me and reports a bullying situation. Most of the time this is one-on-one- the child may catch me in the hallway, come to my office on their own, or ask to speak to me in private.. every so often the child will say something in a group.. but I like to keep these discussions confidential for the child’s sake. I like to have a problem-solving conversation with the child one on one and talk about possible solutions. Solution one: you could deck the kid in the face. What would happen if the child did that? Well- the child would get in trouble, possible break their hand, hurt another person, possible get suspended- so many things.. and the bullying may still continue. That’s not a good solution. Second option: Have me, the SLP, get involved and tell. Just like I previously discussed- that could be good, but that doesn’t teach the child how to self-advocate and the child learns no life lesson with that. That won’t work. Third solution: you talk to your bully yourself, ask them to stop, and claim ownership in the situation. We discuss what this can look like. We talk about what the child can say to the bully. One of my favorite things one of my kiddos told his bully was, “it’s my stutter not yours- so you don’t have the right to talk about it.” OHHHH that was good. ๐Ÿ™‚ And legit, made me cry as his clinician when he told me that.

    Check out those resources that Dr. Yaruss posted for you. ๐Ÿ™‚ Take care, and be well!


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