About the presenter: J. Scott Yaruss, PhD, CCC-SLP, BRS-FD, ASHA Fellow, is an Associate Professor at the University of Pittsburgh and Coordinator of Clinical Research at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. He has contributed to more than 125 publications, including the Overall Assessment of the Speaker's Experience of Stuttering (OASES) and School-Age Stuttering Therapy: A Practical Guide. Scott is a frequent presenter of workshops aimed at helping clinicians improve their evaluation and treatment of people who stutter.
About the presenter: Bill Murphy is a speech pathologist at Purdue University and has worked for over 40 years with children and adults who stutter. Bill is a person who stutters and member of the National Stuttering Association and Friends of Children and Adolescents Who Stutter. He is a past Steering Committee member of ASHA's SID 4 division and is recognized as a Fluency Specialist and a ASHA Fellow. Bill has given numerous state and national presentations and believes that successful stuttering therapy incorporates both the modification of speech behavior as well as emotional and attitudinal changes.
About the presenter: Robert W. Quesal, PhD, CCC-SLP, professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Western Illinois University is a board-recognized specialist in fluency disorders, an ASHA Fellow. and recipient of his university's Provost's Award for Excellence in Scholarly Activity. Dr. Quesal is coauthor of OASES: The Overall Assessment of the Speaker's Experience of Stuttering, has published numerous articles and book chapters and presented workshops related to stuttering assessment and treatment.
About the presenter: Nina Reeves, M.S. CCC-SLP is a board recognized specialist in fluency disorders. She is employed as a staff Fluency Specialist for Frisco and Garland ISDs near Dallas, TX. Nina provides therapy services to children and adolescents who stutter in her private practice, and presents widely on the topic of stuttering and other fluency disorders.

You can post Questions/comments about the following paper to the author before October 22, 2012.

Practical solutions for dealing with bullying in children who stutter

by J. Scott Yaruss (Pennsylvania, USA), Bill Murphy (Indiana, USA), Robert Quesal (Illinois, USA), and Nina Reeves (Texas, USA)

Children who stutter are often subjected to bullying, or inappropriate and hurtful teasing about their speech (e.g., Langevin, 2000). Because of the effect bullying can have on children's speech, speech-language pathologists should be at the forefront in helping children handle bullying.

This paper presents a very brief overview of some activities that are designed to help children learn to react appropriately to bullying.. It is an adaptation of one small section of a forthcoming manual (Murphy, Quesal, Reardon, & Yaruss, in press) that addresses anti-bullying strategies -- written in language that can be used directly with children who stutter.

(DICLOSURE: The authors will receive royalties from the sale of the manual from which this paper is drawn, and the 3rd and 4th authors are the publishers of the manual.)

To The Child

If you stutter, you already know how frustrating it can be when you can't get your words out. You also know how hurtful it is when other kids tease you about your speech. You may find it hard to talk about being bullied with your parents or teachers because you think the bully might be right. If you've ever been in a situation where people have treated you differently because of your stuttering, then you've probably wondered if there's anything you can do about it. Fortunately, there is!

The next several paragraphs contain three steps that you can take to help you deal with bullies. Try them out, and chances are, you'll find that you are able to take more control of situations where bullies are bothering you--without stooping to their level or getting yourself in trouble.

Step 1: Get The Facts

The most important thing you can do to get yourself started in your own "bullying prevention plan" is to get the facts about stuttering and bullying. Here are seven key facts we want you to always keep in mind:

Fact 1: Stuttering is not your fault! Stuttering is just something that happens in some people's speech. For some reason, the parts of your brain that figure out what you want to say and the parts of the brain that help you say it don't seem to work well together sometimes.

Fact 2: Bullying is not your fault! Just as you haven't done anything wrong that caused you to stutter, you haven't done anything wrong that caused you to be bullied! Even though it may not always feel this way, the reasons that you are bullied have much more to do with the bully himself than they do with you. You don't deserve to be bullied--ever!

Fact 3: Bullying is never right! You never have to accept being bullied. More and more, people in your school and other places are learning that bullying cannot be allowed to happen. If you find that you are being bullied, tell someone and ask for help. Working together, you can learn to handle situations where you are bullied.

Fact 4: Bullying is not the same as teasing. Teasing is good-natured fun shared between friends and family members. When people are teasing, they aren't trying to hurt each other or be mean. Bullying is different. Bullying is a hurtful behavior that makes people feel bad. Sometimes, what starts as teasing can turn into bullying if somebody's feelings get hurt. The problem is, other people may still think that it's all still just teasing--they may not realize how bad it feels when people talk about your speech. You need to let people know when you are feeling bullied!

Fact 5: Bullies pick on other people to make themselves feel powerful. At first, it may seem that there are many different reasons that bullies pick on other children. Many times, it turns out that what is driving the bully is that he feels bad about himself. Other bullies don't know how to accept the differences they see in other people. It's not because you stutter, or because you are smart or tall or redheaded or anything else. Bullies look for the differences in lots of the people around them--regardless of what those differences are--and then they bother people about those differences. Bullies are looking for a reaction from the kids they bully. When they get someone to cry, be sad, or get angry, then they bother them even more. That makes the bully feel better.

Fact 6: Not all of the kids who pick on you are bullies. When other kids make fun of your speech, it probably feels bad, no matter who is picking on you. Not all of those kids are bullies, however. Bullies are the ones who are really out to make you feel bad. They're the ones who start everything and who keep it up, even when they know better. But, there's another group of kids who might be involved. We can call those kids the "bystanders." They are the ones who go along with the bully because they simply don't know any better or because they're afraid the bully might start to pick on them, too.

Fact 7: You CAN work to stop bullying. Sometimes, when you're being bullied, it may feel like there's nothing you or anybody else can do to make it stop. Fortunately, that's not true. Even though it can be difficult, at times, to know what to do, there are steps you can take to reduce bullying.

Step 2: Give The Facts

The more we can help people understand stuttering, and the more they understand about what it means to bully somebody, the less likely they will be to give you a hard time about your speech.

Acknowledge It!

Giving others the facts about stuttering can be as simple as just acknowledging that you stutter. Sure, they probably already know, but chances are good that you've never actually talked about it with them. There are good reasons for this--stuttering may make you feel embarrassed or upset, and nobody likes to talk about things that bother them. Still, the problem is that other kids just don't know how to respond when you stutter. Just as it makes you uncomfortable, it can make them uncomfortable too. That causes them to act in ways that don't help--they may make comments about your speech, or they may join in when the bully is bothering you--simply because they don't know any better.

You can begin to teach other people about stuttering by responding in a more helpful way with some simple statements such as:

You can work with your parents or speech teacher to come up with other ways of acknowledging stuttering and starting to educate others about why you speak the way you do.

You are the Expert!

You can even take this idea of educating other people about stuttering a step further. Have you ever thought about the fact that you know more about stuttering than anybody else in your life? Even though other people are probably always telling you what you should or should not do about your speech, you are the one who really knows what it's like to stutter. Your knowledge about stuttering gives you a lot of knowledge and power, and you can share your knowledge with others. Consider putting together a list of things you want other people to know about your stuttering. Maybe you want them to know the key facts listed above, like the fact that stuttering is not your fault, and that you didn't do anything wrong that caused you to stutter. Maybe you want them to know that you're not the only one who stutters. (Did you know that there are more than 3 million people in the United States who stutter?) Or, maybe, you want them to know about what you are doing in speech therapy--what techniques have you learned, what things seem to work and what things don't, and why it's harder to use techniques in some situations than in others.

There are lots of ways you can teach other people about stuttering. Working with your parents, teachers, or speech therapist, you can put together a letter or handout that lists the information you want people to know. You can even give a presentation about stuttering to friends or family members.

Step 3: Help Yourself

You have probably heard a lot of advice and suggestions about how to handle bullying. Maybe you've even tried some different things to see if they work. If so, you know that sometimes, different ideas or strategies can help a little bit, or for a little while, but other times, they don't. In part, that's because each situation is different. It's also because there are many other ideas you haven't tried yet. You'll need to learn lots of different ways to handle bullying. Remember, even if you haven't always been successful at stopping bullying before, that doesn't mean that you can't be successful in the future. One of the most important rules for facing difficult situations in life is to keep trying. The second most important rule is to remember that you are in charge. You get to choose which of these ideas you try, and when you try them. You also get to change them to make them work for you, and you can add more ideas of your own!

We have outlined just a few ideas for how you can overcome bullying, but there are lots more. Whole books have been written about how to help kids just like you to protect themselves from bullying. Most of these books are written for your parents or your teachers, but some have been written for kids and teenagers. Your speech teacher can help you find some of them.

Step 4: Remember That You're Not Alone and That You Can Do It!

At the beginning of this section, we talked about the fact that your parents, teachers, and others are there to help you, and this is true. Many of the ideas and suggestions we described will work best if you have the help and support of the people around you. You're not alone in dealing with your stuttering or with bullying--there are lots of people who love you and care about you and want to help.

Did you know that there are lots of other people you don't even know who are there to help you? For example, the National Stuttering Association (NSA) and Friends: The National Association for Young People Who Stutter are support organizations just for people who stutter and their families. These organizations have members all over the country--teens, kids, and adults--all of whom are united in a single cause: to help make things a little easier for people who stutter. These organizations have resources on the internet to help people understand what it's like to stutter. And, they have meetings and conferences so you can meet other kids who stutter.

Even if you can't attend a support group event, you can still stay connected through newsletter or the Internet. For example, the NSA's newsletter (Family Voices) and FRIENDS newsletter (Reaching Out) help kids and teens who stutter remember that they can take charge of their speech and of the situations they face so stuttering does not have to hold them back! There are many people who want to help you deal with your stuttering and bullying -- the more you get to know them, the easier it will be to face these challenges and overcome them!


Langevin, M. (2000). Teasing and bullying: unacceptable behavior. The TAB program. Edmonton, Alberta: Institute for Stuttering Treatment and Research.

Murphy, W.P., Quesal, R.W., Reeves, N.A., & Yaruss, J.S. (in press). Practical solutions for helping children who stutter deal with bullying. McKinney, TX: Stuttering Therapy Resources, Inc.

You can post Questions/comments about the above paper to the authors before October 22, 2012.

SUBMITTED: September 17, 2012
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