Bullying is a problem for many school-aged children, and often times the target is a child who differs from their peers in some way. Unfortunately, incidences of teasing and bullying are significantly high for children who stutter. Any form of teasing can cause damage to a child, so parents often feel angry, helpless, and concerned for their child. As much as a parent would love to march right up to the bully himself, teaching children how to appropriately handle bullying situations will prepare them for any future encounters.
Many children may feel ashamed or embarrassed to admit they are being teased. Children who stutter may also avoid confiding in their teacher because they are embarrassed they may stutter while explaining the situation. Avoiding school or social functions by making excuses, grades dropping, losing or gaining weight, depression or irritability are all common signs of bullying. If you notice any of these signs, talk to your child first.
Next, address the bullying head on. Educate your child on appropriate ways to interact with a bully without resorting to their poor behavior. Role-playing is an effective way to prepare your child for situations in a safe and comfortable environment. Role-playing may include rehearsing what to say to the bully, approaching a teacher or principle, or walking away from a negative situation. Rehearsing prewritten lines may help a child who stutters feel at ease when the moment arrives. For examples of role-playing, visit the International Stuttering Association website. As a parent, you may feel responsible to address the situation as well. Avoid addressing the situation with the bully’s parents; instead, reach out to the principle of the school. The principle and teacher will be able to observe the children interacting and handle the situation appropriately. A discussion with the speech-language pathologist (SLP) in the school may be beneficial as well. The SLP can address the situation with your child, and practice the role-playing at school. The SLP may also chose to talk to his/her class as a whole about stuttering and how to best react to a child stuttering. Always ask the child for permission before sending the SLP to the classroom.
Make your child feel important and loved at home. Plan a day filled with their favorite activities, or spend a few hours one-on-one with them to make them feel special. Bullying and teasing can be detrimental to a child’s self-esteem. Reach out to Lumiere Children’s Therapy to talk to our family counselor about bullying.
Lew, Gail Wilson. “What Parents Can Do For Your Child When He Is Being Teased for Stuttering.” Parents Main Page, International Stuttering Association, www.isastutter.org/CDRomProject/parent/parent_main.html.