The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is using May is Better Hearing and Speech Month (BHSM) to remind parents and teachers about the key role speech-language pathologists (SLPs) can play in helping students with communication difficulties deal with bullying.
Studies show that students with a speech-language disorder like stuttering are significantly more likely to be bullied than their "typical" peers. In fact, a recent study by Professor Gordon W. Blood, PhD, CCC-SLP, of Pennsylvania State University showed that children who stutter are 61% more likely to be targeted by a bully. While the study looked specifically at children who stutter, Blood says bullies tend to look for shy, timid children who appear withdrawn and have poor social and communication skills–hallmarks of certain childhood developmental disorders, including stuttering, autism, and other speech-language impairments.
The good news is that help is available. Nearly every school district across the country has SLPs in their schools. These professionals can provide strategies to students who are dealing with bullying.
That help includes:
- Explaining speech-language disorders to all students in classroom presentations
- Listening to students who have concerns about bullying and role playing to teach children with speech-language disorders how to be assertive and to confidently use strategies to deter bullies
- Showing students how to interact appropriately with peers
- Empowering students to immediately inform teachers and parents about being bullied instead of fighting back
- Helping students prepare a list of responses they can use if teased about their speech
- Showing students how they may give away their power to bullies and how they can get it back
- Using video modeling, conversation groups, and electronic media to help students regain self-esteem and practice communication techniques for dealing with bullies
"The goal is to teach children with speech-language disorders how to avoid becoming targets of bullies and advocate for themselves as victims of these attacks," according to ASHA President Shelly Chabon, PhD, CCC-SLP. Chabon adds, "Giving children the gift of confidence to use communication techniques that effectively diffuse negative attention is one of the most powerful tools SLPs can employ and further sets a child up for success."
For more about bullying and the role of SLPs, visit the ASHA website or call 800-638-TALK (8255). To find a certified SLP or audiologist in your local area, visit ASHA's ProSearch.