An act of aggression need not be verbal or physical to be bullying. It can be a vindictive, non-verbal act of condescension and intimidation. Silent knives cut the deepest and as a child the cross of social and peer alienation is heavy indeed to bear. As a child who stutters, social interactions in school and on the playground are difficult as it is. But if further complicated by bullying and teasing, it can make them retreat into a shell of loneliness and isolation. As parents of children who stutter, these interactions can further frustrate the progress you have made with your child in accepting their speech defect.
We can hope and envisage a future where children do not have to deal with the trauma of bullying but as things stand now, we can’t eliminate bullying. We can, however, empower children who stutter to respond with confidence to such crude behavior. Parents and speech therapists can help stutterers acknowledge being bullied and help diminish its adverse effects.
Acknowledge and Educate
Acceptance is the first step towards improvement. As parents of a child who stutters, you must first acknowledge your child’s speech defect. Only through your acceptance and encouragement will he/she acknowledge it and learn never to be ashamed of it. Secondly, as parents, teachers or speech therapists of a child who stutters, it is your job to provide a safe environment for the child to admit that he/she is being teased or bullied.
Educating a young child about his/her stutter and how it is simply a result of their genetics and in no way their fault is extremely important. As teachers in a classroom setting, it is important to educate the other students about stuttering and speech defects. This reduces the confusion and sense of alienation that surrounds it and can reduce bullying. It certainly helps the young child feel as though he/she can confide in their teacher without fear of ridicule.
It takes a village to raise a child, especially if the child is highly intelligent and sensitive as most children with speech defects tend to be. Trained and experienced speech therapists who work with young children can notice and recognize signs of bullying. Teachers can notice a child’s inclusion in his/her peer group. As parents of a child who stutters or stammers, it is important to build a healthy social network amongst the various adults who play significant roles in your son/daughter’s life. Lead by example and surround your child with self-assured adults who value his/her opinions. Build his/her self-esteem and arm your child with the tools to face the harsh realities of life.
Humor as a weapon
Bullies are cowards at heart. And the best way to deal with a coward or display his/her cowardice is with humor. Speech therapists and parents can work with children and teach them how to use wit as a weapon. Humor can help a child who stutters overcome his natural shyness in social interactions and handle peer pressure better.