Jeers and Tears: Teasing and Communication Disorders
By Judith Maginnis Kuster
The Internet offers examples of children with communication differences who are often targets of teasing and bullying.
"The Little Girl Who Dared To Wish" by Alan D. Shultz is a touching true story of a child with cerebral palsy who wrote the following letter one Christmas: Dear Santa, My name is Amy. I am nine years old. I have a problem at school. Can you help me Santa? Kids laugh at me because of the way I walk and run and talk. I have cerebral palsy. I just want one day where no one laughs at me or makes fun of me .
"Stammerers Targeted by School Bullies," by John Carvel, The Guardian, June 4, 1999 reports a study by the British Psychological Society where researchers discovered that 83% of adults who stammer who were questioned reported experiencing bullying when they were in school. Further evidence that children who stutter are teased can be found on "Just for Kids" on The Stuttering Home Page where children are invited to share how they have been teased and how that makes them feel.
Jamie Burke describes "Growing Up Deaf in the Seventies: Teasing: A Pain Never Forgotten" .
Speech-language pathologists (along with parents and teachers) may need to help children develop appropriate strategies to handle the taunts. The Internet is a rich resource for finding general resources on teasing/bullying and additional resources specifically aimed at dealing with teasing/bullying associated with communication disorders.
Bully Online ), Bully Beware , and Sticks and Stones. Raven Days is a site for victims and survivors of bullying focused on surviving middle school, junior high, and high school . The award-winning Canadian Web site www.bullying.org,created by Bill Belsey, features children's poems, stories, and pictures of bullying as well as a "Bully Busters" Shockwave Game.
Other sites focus on the teasing experienced by some of the children in our caseload.
Cleft Palate Foundation Publications' "Letter to a Teacher" offers the following advice: "You may want to keep a 'third ear' attuned to whether the child is experiencing any harassment or teasing from other students. One of the preventative approaches you can take is to do an activity like a 'magic circle,' in which you lead a group discussion of the ways in which we are all different. This activity can lead to a more accepting attitude of differences among people"
Children who stutter provide suggestions on how they handle teasing that can be an important resource for exploring alternatives with other children who stutter.
Finally, "Teasing And Bullying Of Children Who Stutter" by Ian Roth & Deryk Beal, and three additional articles written for International Stuttering Awareness Day online conferences by SLPs offer many practical suggestions: "What Parents Can Do For Your Child When He Is Being Teased For Stuttering" by Gail Wilson Lew , "Speech Pathologists Can Help Children Who Are Teased Because They Stutter" by Bill Murphy and "Helping Children Deal with Teasing and Bullying" by Marilyn Langevin .
Judith Kuster is in the department of speech, hearing, and rehabilitation services at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. All of Kusters Internet columns are on the ASHA Web site in HTML format with active links although URLs change and there is no guarantee that links from previous articles are still functional.
Kuster, JM, Jeers and Tears: Teasing and Communication Disorders, ASHA Leader, August 6, 2002, p. 13