Bullying: Prevention for the SLP

In honor of National Bullying Prevention Month this October, it is important to discuss the role the therapist plays in the prevention of bullying process. A recent study conducted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln found that students with special needs—whether behavioral, learning or physical—are more prone to being bullied. Because of this, these students often become isolated and experience long-term effects.

For example, children who stutter are commonly the target of peer bullying. Presenting or reading out loud in front of the class is both a difficult and traumatic experience if bullies are present. Those students with “invisible” disabilities—like ADHD, learning disabilities and some autism spectrum disorders—are also prime targets for social exclusion because their peers perceive them as different, yet do not know why because these disorders are not visible.

Unfortunately, many students who are bullied because of special needs lack to the tools to share their experiences with parents, teachers and therapists to get help. When a student is able to tell a therapist about a bullying incident, therapists often respond with very tactical measures; however, this puts the burden on the victim and does not directly address the bullying issue.

Special education attorney Jennifer Laviano and special education advocate Julie Swanson suggest that parents and the special education team work together to help the student understand and recognize the bullying incidents, making this an IEP goal for the student. By helping the student identify bullying, parents and educators can help empower the student and aid the investigation process. To hear more of Laviano and Swanson’s advice for bullying, listen to their Blog Talk Radio show, “Protecting Your Children From Bullying In an IEP” here.

After helping the student to understand bullying, the therapist can play a role in helping the student cope with bullying incidents. This ADVANCE for Speech & Hearing article suggests therapists desensitize a student’s self-perceived shame of their communication disability to ease incidents of bullying. By helping a student accept the disorder, become less withdrawn and more socially capable, students may increase progress and decrease bullying.

How do you help your students accept their speech disorders in order to help overcome them? Comment below or share your strategies on our Facebook page or by using our Twitter handle @PresenceLearn!