top of page
  • Writer's pictureStephanie Jeret

Supporting a Child who Stutters: Understanding and Addressing Bullying


Speech Therapy for child who is being bullied for stuttering in Wilmette, Illinois

Donald Trump’s recent bullying of President Biden’s stuttering makes this blog post especially relevant now. Bullying is a significant issue for children today, especially those who stutter. Did you know that kids who stutter often experience more bullying than those who do not? In fact, as many as 81% of children have reported being bullied at some point. Unfortunately, this bullying doesn't always stop as they grow up. We can see evidence of this in today’s political arena.


In this blog post, we will talk about:


What is Bullying?

Bullying involves making repeated verbal comments intended to hurt or embarrass another person. A bully usually looks for weaknesses in their victim and then uses those weaknesses to hurt them. Children who are bullied are more likely to experience low self-esteem, sadness, and fear.


Children who stutter are not the only victims of bullying. Many children and adults are victims of bullying. Bullying is never acceptable, and we want to make sure we take all measures to prevent it.


What are the Primary Signs of Stuttering?

Stuttering occurs when a child or adult has trouble speaking fluently. This happens because their brain has difficulty with timing and organizing the movements needed for speech. Often, listeners recognize these struggles in the form of:

  • Getting stuck on sounds or words

  • Repeating sounds, syllables, or words

  • Stretching out sounds


Top Five Myths About Stuttering

Myth 1: Stuttering is caused by nervousness

Oftentimes, anxiety can contribute to decreased fluency, but stuttering is not a sign of anxiety. Some research has shown that taking anxiety medication shows improvement in fluency. This occurs because reducing anxiety can lead to improved fluency.


Current research suggests that stuttering is the result of many factors working together. Some of these factors include genetics, language development, and brain structure and function.


  1. Genetics: Individuals who stutter often have another family member or relative that stutters. There are also a number of genes that have been implicated in stuttering including GNPTG, GNPTAB, NAGPA, AP4E1.

  2. Language Development: Stuttering often occurs between the ages of 2 and 4 when language abilities are expanding. Because stuttering is most prevalent during this age, research suggests that there may be a correlation between language development and stuttering.

  3. Brain Structure/Function: Brain imaging studies have shown there is more right hemisphere activity in adults who stutter and less activity in the left hemisphere (the area responsible for speech production).

Myth 2: Stuttering is a result of poor parenting

In the 1940s, the theory that poor parenting led to stuttering was proposed (called the diagnosogenic theory). While poor parenting does not cause stuttering, supportive and understanding parenting can play an important role in helping a child who stutters manage the disorder effectively.


Myth 3: Stuttering is a sign of low intelligence

Stuttering is not indicative of intelligence level. Many people who stutter are intelligent and excel in various aspects of life.


Myth 4: Stuttering only impacts speech

Listeners often only hear a stutter and therefore think stuttering impacts only speech; however, stuttering impacts much more. Read here to learn more.


Myth 5: Stuttering is caused by a trauma

Stuttering can be caused by trauma, also known as psychogenic stuttering. This is extremely rare. The most common type of stuttering is developmental.


Impact of Stuttering on a Child

Without proper treatment, stuttering can have a significant Impact on a child's life.


Social and Emotional Impact

Stuttering can impact confidence, leading to a feeling of loneliness and depression.  Individuals may fear judgment in academic and social settings.


Education Challenges

Stuttering can impact academic performance and opportunities, affecting participation in classroom activities and presentations. This can lead to limitations in certain professional and academic endeavors.


Interpersonal Relationships

Stuttering can influence friendships, romantic relationships, and familial relationships as those who stutter may be embarrassed about their speech.


Social Avoidance

Individuals who stutter may avoid social situations or speaking up in group settings, leading to further isolation. Children who stutter may limit their participation in after-school activities and other personal growth opportunities.


Stress

The anticipation, experience, and post-experience of stuttering can lead to feelings of stress and anxiety, impacting physical and emotional well-being.


Negative Self-Image

Constant experiences of stuttering and poor reactions from others can contribute to a negative self-image. This can lead to lack of confidence in various aspects of life.


Quality of Life

Overall, stuttering can impact various aspects of daily living, including communication, social interactions, education, career opportunities, and emotional well-being, affecting an individual's overall quality of life.


Impact of Bullying on a Child who Stutters


Speech Therapy for child who is being bullied for stuttering in Skokie, Illinois

As discussed, stuttering can have a profound impact on a child's life. If that child is being bullied, it can have an even more significant impact. It is important to recognize signs that a child is being bullied in order to provide quick and early intervention.


Changes in behavior both online and in person

You may notice your child become more withdrawn, anxious, or avoiding certain situations or places. In addition, they may stop using social media, become secretive about their online activities, or seem upset after using online devices.


Avoidance of school or social situations

Your child may avoid social situations, friends, or other group activities. They may have unexplained illnesses that keep them home from school.


Changes in eating of sleeping patterns 

Bullying can impact a child’s eating and sleeping habits. They may experience changes such as loss of appetite or trouble sleeping.


Drop in academic performance

Bullying can impact a child’s concentration and ability to focus on schoolwork. A drop in academic performance can be a red flag.


Changes in self-esteem

Low self-esteem and negative self-talk can be an indicator of bullying, as bullying ruins self-esteem.


Supporting a Child Who Stutters and Faces Bullying


Speech Therapy for child who is being bullied for stuttering in Highland Park, Illinois

If you suspect your child is being bullied, it's important to reach out to their teachers, speech therapist, and other school personnel. Resolving bullying requires a team effort.


In fact, it is important that teachers recognize the diverse characteristics among children early on, emphasizing that these differences should never be a target for bullying. Some people have red hair, some people have blue eyes, some people have braces, and these are all just differences.


Here are some specific strategies you can use to support your child who stutters and faces bullying:


Education: Why are they Bullying me?

It is important for your child to understand why there are bullies and where this behavior comes from. Research has pointed out that bullies bully because they are unable to tolerate differences in other people and suffer from low self-esteem. In essence, the source of the problem is the bully, not your child. By helping your child understand this, you are helping them understand that they are not the problem.


Teach your child to accept their stutter

Bullies choose their targets wisely. They typically pick someone who is weaker physically or emotionally. It is reasonable to conclude that a child who shows less emotion to a bully will be bullied less.


A child who stutters is more likely to experience heightened emotions when being bullied. Thus, one of the first steps we can take to help them manage these emotions is to assist them in accepting their stutter.


Teach your child that it is okay to stutter. Once your child becomes more accepting of their stutter, the bullying will have less of an impact on them. Additionally, as they become more accepting of their stutter, they will be able to stutter with less tension and more confidence. With increased confidence, they can engage in activities they once avoided and participate more fully in their lives. All of this will not only have a positive impact on them and their lives, but also reduce the impact of bullying.


Teach your child how to respond to a bully

  • How a child who stutters can respond nonverbally to the bully

    • Seek help - talk with a teacher nearby and let them know about the situation.

    • Ignore the bully - walk away from the bully and remind yourself that he is just a bully, what he says is just being used to hurt you.

    • Protect yourself - pretend you have a protective shield around yourself where all hurtful words are deflected.

    • Ignore the bully, imagine what you would say, tell someone - Ignore the bully and imagine what you would want to say to him. Later, tell an adult what you may have said to him.


  • How a child who stutters can verbally respond to the bully

    • Agree with the bully (for example: "Yeah, I stutter!")

    • Ask a question (for example: "It took you that long to figure it out?")

    • Reflect the comment (for example: Why would you say that to me?")

    • Take it as a compliment (for example: "Thanks for noticing.")

    • Say something that makes it hard for the bully to respond (For example: "And?")

    • Use humor (For example: "Yes, what I say is so important, it needs to be said 2 or 3 times.")


In-Person Speech Therapy for Children who Stutter in Skokie, IL

At Speak with Stephanie, we offer in-home speech therapy to children who stutter near Skokie (including Evanston, Wilmette, and Highland Park).


We offer stuttering treatment options that may reduce the frequency and severity of your child's stuttering. Additionally, we focus on improving self-confidence in speaking situations. We partner with parents, children, and teachers to address communication challenges and prevent bullying.


Schedule a free consultation today to see how we can help your child who stutters.


Online Speech Therapy for Children who Stutter Throughout Illinois, New York, New Jersey

In addition to in-home speech therapy, we offer online speech therapy to children who stutter living in Illinois, New York, and New Jersey.


We provide various treatment options for stuttering that can help lessen its frequency and severity in your child. We also concentrate on boosting self-confidence during speaking situations. We collaborate with parents, children, and teachers to tackle communication difficulties and deter bullying.


Frequently Asked Questions

frequently asked questions about stuttering


When does stuttering begin?

It is most common for children between the ages of 2 and 6 to go through periods of disfluency. Whether this becomes a long-term stuttering disorder depends on a variety of factors including genetics, gender, developmental factors, neurological factors, language processing, and psychological factors (more can be read about this here).


Can stuttering be cured?

Although there is no definitive cure for stuttering, there is a greater chance of recovery for young children.


Are there any organizations that support children who stutter?

The National Stuttering Association (NSA) stands as a remarkable organization catering to parents of children who stutter. Providing an array of resources, support groups, and comprehensive information regarding various treatment options, NSA serves as a reliable support system for families navigating through stuttering challenges.

Similarly, the Stuttering Foundation emerges as another invaluable resource for families grappling with stuttering.



 

About the author:  


Stephanie Jeret is a Speech-Language Pathologist and the owner of Speak with Stephanie LLC. She obtained her Bachelor's and Master's degree from the City University of New York. She has practiced speech therapy in a number of settings including outpatient rehabilitation, telepractice, skilled nursing facilities, schools, and a private practice. She specializes in the evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of a variety of communication disorders including articulation disorders, receptive/expressive language disorders, and fluency disorders. Information is available by emailing her at stephanie@speakwithstephanie.com or by visiting www.speakwithstephanie.com.








18 views

Comments


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page