#025: How to Navigate Bullying with Students Who Stutter

In this week’s episode of the SLP Now podcast, I got to sit down with the Nina Reeves to talk about how we can best support students who stutter and get bullied.

But first, a bit of background about Nina: She is a board-certified specialist in fluency disorders for Frisco ISD, a fluency specialist consultant for the San Diego Unified Schools, the author of several amazing clinically-based materials, the co-owner of Stuttering Therapy Resources, a recipient of numerous awards for outstanding contributions to speech therapy in public schools…and more.

Suffice to say this conversation was really illuminating for me, and it comes at a really great time for a couple of reasons.

First of all, I have been getting so many questions from the SLP community about how to handle this topic — bullying is tough to navigate at the best of times, and it’s often a bigger problem for students who struggle with disfluency than it is for their peers.

Secondly, October is Bullying Prevention Month, and this upcoming Wednesday (10/23/19) is Unity Day — a day to wear and share orange to show we are together against bullying and UNITED for kindness, acceptance, and inclusion.

One of the messages Nina is most passionate about sharing is that stuttering is okay, and a big part of success in speech therapy is accepting that. If we understand that, we can educate others and help to dispel some of the stigma around fluency — hopefully minimizing some of the bullying that accompanies that stigma. 💪

So grab your beverage of choice (I’ll have…something orange?), put your feet up, and listen in!

Key Takeaways

– What led Nina Reeves to become a fluency expert
– What is the difference between bullying and teasing?
– What the research tells us about bullying for students who stutter
– What an SLP’s role is in decreasing the impact of bullying for students who stutter
– How we can help to change the conversation about stuttering
– Focusing on the facts surrounding fluency
– Helping a child who stutters to understand bullying, and setting them up to respond
– Shoring up support systems: parents, teachers, siblings, and peers
– How to be stakeholder savvy and set up support systems
– What can SLPs do to support the parents of a student who is being bullied?
– What can teachers do to support their students?

Links Mentioned in the Podcast

Langevin and her colleagues (Research on bullying and children who stutter)
National Stuttering Association
British Stammering Association

Find Out More About Nina

– Web: NinaReeves.com
– E-Mail: Nina@NinaReeves.com
Stuttering Therapy Services & Seminars
Stuttering Therapy Resources
Ongoing Blog and Upcoming Vlogs
Clinical Guide and workbooks for dealing with teasing and bullying for SLPs, students who stutter, and their stakeholders
Clinical Guides for comprehensive information of both EC and SA stuttering therapy
OASES

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Transcript

Speaker 1: Hi there and welcome to the SLP Now Podcast. I am so excited to be introducing our guests today. Nina Reeves will be answering a bunch of our, the questions that you guys have submitted related to navigating bullying with students who stutter. I have read her books and resources on this and I know she's going to share so many amazing tips with us and I think this might even apply to other students on our caseload. So, definitely listening.

Speaker 1: A little bit about Nina, she is a board certified specialist in fluency disorders and she is also a staff fluency specialist for Frisco ISD and a fluency specialist consultant for the San Diego Unified Schools. She's a nationally recognized workshop presenter in the area of fluency disorders, and is an author of several amazing clinically based materials. She is the co-owner of Stuttering Therapy Resources and she's also a recipient of numerous awards including the Ash Foundation Van Hattum Award for outstanding contributions to the public schools, and most recently she is also the recipient of the Ashes Certificate of Recognition for special contributions in preschool through grade 12 education settings.

Speaker 1: So she is definitely a well established expert in the world of fluency and has made so many amazing contributions to the field, and I cannot wait for her to share her wisdom with us when it comes to working with students and navigating bullying.

Speaker 1: Before we jump in, Nina, can you tell us a little bit how you started on this journey and how you came to be such an expert in this area of fluency?

Nina Reeves: Oh, well that's a tangled word. First of all, thanks for having me on. I'm really excited to be back with you. We've done some things in the past and I've always really enjoyed them. The, how did I come to learn? Well, it was purely accidental. I actually had speech therapy when I was a child. I had a cleft palate, and so I had a speech therapist from the time I was three years old, all the way through eighth grade. I knew I was going to be a speech therapist when I was seven or eight years old, maybe nine. I knew my career choice.

Nina Reeves: But of course I was going to work with oral facial anomalies and I was going to work in cleft palate world. But the universe has different choices sometimes. After I graduated I went to work in a small rural school districts of Illinois and met my first actual student who stutters, who wasn't just in a clinic. I knew after very little bit of time that I didn't know enough, and that I was only doing a small bit of good for this young man and he needed me to know a lot more about what I was doing.

Nina Reeves: So I did a lot of self study and a lot of jumping in and getting involved in the stuttering community and being a part of the National Stuttering Association, and going to Stuttering Foundation workshops and reading everything I could. Then I started to hang around with people who were really smart in this area as well, and it's just been a complete professional learning all of my career. But I'm very passionate about this area of our field.

Speaker 1: That is such an amazing story. I got some goosebumps. So cool. Thank you so much for sharing that. Let's just dive into all the nitty gritty details. Can you break down a little bit for us? What's the difference between bullying and teasing? Just a little bit of the research and what that tells us about bullying for students who stutter.

Nina Reeves: It's very fascinating. These are things that one of my co-authors and I were putting together our guides for minimizing bullying. It was interesting to me that how much people use the words bullying and teasing interchangeably, but they are very different from each other in the way that and as the researchers and the professionals in this area, like Tatum has a great book from 1989 who really defined for us, that teasing is that harmless, let me call it banter, from family and friends. Everyone is having fun, everybody's in on the joke. It's just a little pushing everybody's buttons. But nothing that is meant to be hurtful.

Nina Reeves: Bullying on the other hand is a defined as a conscious effort to harm someone. Okay. That is where, if somebody quote unquote teasing but someone's feelings are being hurt, then they're bullying. They're no longer teasing. That's something that our students, our young people have a hard time figuring out. “Oh, I was just teasing you.” They'll say. But you know what? You keep doing that and you know that I'm hurt by it. Now you're bullying me.

Nina Reeves: It's a fine line, but it's a definitive line. If not everybody's having fun and on the joke, it's bullying.

Speaker 1: That's really helpful.

Nina Reeves: Yeah. And Barbara Colarusso did a quintessential book in 2008, and I love the way that she describes the people that are involved in this dynamic. There's the bully, the bullied and the bystander. Because there's three players in this app. In the common ground way, bullies are trying to gain their power. Okay, they're trying to put others down to gain some sense of power. The bullied is a person who stands out in some way. Something about this person stands out in some way and so they can become a target, and what's most interesting to me is the bystanders. These are all of us in the circle who either are part of the bullying episode because we either encourage the bully, we join in with the bully and become a bully ourselves in that instance, or we ignore.

Nina Reeves: By simply ignoring, when bystanders ignore what's going on, they're part of the problem and not the solution. I think when she described that, I thought, wow. Lots of us fall into all three of those categories from our young years, I believe. I can remember times in grade school where I might've fallen into every one of those categories and I think it's something for us to really think about and help our students understand.

Speaker 1: That's such an important element to think about, that the bystanders are part of that. It's not just, because we typically focus on the bully and the person being bullied. But that bystander perspective is so important, and I, because I've used that guide that you wrote. I thought a lot of the suggestions in there are focused actually on the bystanders, which was really interesting.

Nina Reeves: The research will tell us that that's where we can do a lot of work as a social movement. We do want to try to help the bullies. Yes. But that's in speech pathology world, not our deal. That's not our wheelhouse. For the most part, we need to help bullies understand the disorder of stuttering in some ways, because sometimes bullying is about ignorance. But if there's a chronic bullying from a child, then sometimes that's part of a counseling world that we can pair up with to help the bully. For certain, we're helping the bullied and I'll get into some of the research about how much children who stutter are bullied.

Nina Reeves: But the bystander, as you said, we write a lot about that part of it and Barbara Colarusso was... she was a big proponent of this. We can make a lot of progress with the bystanders. Because these are the students who, if given five minutes alone with a child who stutters, they would never bully the child. But when they're in the bystander mode, they don't want to get picked on by the bully so they join in, or they just do nothing because they're fearful, or they don't know what to do so they don't do anything. And it's moving with them how they can support a child who stutters or any child on our caseload's, to help them know the right things to do and to become part of that student support system. We can make some good end roads.

Speaker 1: I love that, and it just made... because I was, I reached towards that resource when I was struggling with a couple of different students on my own caseload, and it was just, that approach was so incredibly helpful, so I'm excited. Talk a little bit more about that as we go through. But before we dive into those components, can you tell us a little bit about the research for students who stutter.

Nina Reeves: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Speaker 1: And bullying.

Nina Reeves: Yes, for sure, it's not going to be a surprise to anyone that has worked with students who stutter, that clinically and anecdotally, we already know and feel that they get bullied at a higher rate than most of the other kids that we know. Well but all of them, but most. And so, the research bears that out, like Lungavine and her colleagues they do a lot of work in this area. They talk about the fact that, just in some of their research about 60%, this is the general population of students in elementary school, report being occasionally bullied, 60% with 15% of them reporting some chronic bullying at least once a week. For children who stutter 59% in one of Lungavine's studies showed that 59% of children who stutter or bullied about their stutter chronically.

Nina Reeves: So that difference between the 15% of general elementary school students reporting chronic bullying and almost 60% of children who stutter reporting some chronic bullying about their stuttering. And so, I know we should all say wow.

Speaker 1: Right.

Nina Reeves: It comes many forms. The research shows that it comes, verbally and physically. It can escalate to physical, and that relational bullying, which is where a lot of my stories from childhood come in, where there would be, one student may be setting other students against a young child who stutters. Trying to get the mob mentality. So that's where our bully our bystanders come in, and then of course there's cyber bullying, which is a bigger and bigger problem all the time.

Nina Reeves: All of this bullying leads to the psychological literature that points to diminish self-worth, diminished educational performance, a large increase in social rejection, a feeling of being rejected socially, which of course leads to increase depression, and then there's the withdrawal and the helplessness feeling, and that's just, generally and for children who stutter, that increased isolation, and then that feedback that your stutter is bad.

Nina Reeves: So, that increases the negative feelings about stuttering, which then increases avoidances of stuttering and avoidances of communication overall, which feeds back into this withdrawal and the isolation and it's just this cycle that can become really hard to break and really destructive to the self esteem and the communication of kids who stutter.

Speaker 1: That definitely does not sound like a good cycle. Now we're acutely aware of the impact that this has on students, and I'm sure that we all were aware of this already, but it sometimes can be really helpful to put some numbers on it into... I was pretty blown away by that statistic that 59% of children who stuttered report chronic stuttering or bullying, which is pretty, that's pretty intense.

Speaker 1: Let's talk about what we can do to help these students or to potentially do something around the bullying that's happening. Where would you suggest, because maybe we can talk about what we can do first with the students.

Nina Reeves: That would be great. I think that I'm going to piggy back on what you just said though, to lead us into what we can do as professionals and as speech therapists. It's important to have those numbers because one of the things that happens is that bullies don't bully in front of us. And kids who stutter don't always report the bullying. So I'm off doing consultations and I'm working in my district and people are going, “Oh, I don't think he's bullied.” Or, “He doesn't report any bullying.” I bristle at that, because I wonder how many times we've gotten into the discussion, how often, how we've done it, have we done it in a way that allows the child to feel safe reporting it to us?

Nina Reeves: Just because it hasn't been seen doesn't mean it hasn't happened. It's about the bus, the bathroom, the cafeteria, and the playground. Those are not places where speech pathologists are, where usually teachers are. There's a lot of staff, and then there's a lot of places where staff isn't at all, and these are the places and the times when children are bullied because kids who bully are smart enough to know that they shouldn't do it in front of an adult. So those statistics are really helpful for us to say, oh my gosh, wow, I really should look at this and say, even if I haven't heard it or seen it or had it reported to me, maybe I need to be diving into this part of this child's existence and seeing what we can dig up.

Nina Reeves: I guess that would be part of one of our roles. But I'm going to go through five roles that I think we have as speech pathologists and try to congeal the information as much as I can. You're going to hear my most passionate one first. I call it a message make over. Because I think the number one thing and the other four things I'm going to talk about are going to fall under this, but the most important thing we can do to help diminish bullying, to decrease it, I don't know that we can eliminate it, but if wishing, where to make it so.

Nina Reeves: But the number one thing I think we can do to minimize bullying for children who stutter is to overarchingly the messing stuttering. Okay. I think that we have to stop sending the message either intended or otherwise, that fluent speech is a gold standard of communication. I want to sit with that for a second. Okay. No matter where you were trained, no matter what you learned in 1979, it's important to think that the world has changed.

Nina Reeves: I hear too many times the praises for fluency. “Oh, isn't it wonderful? He didn't stutter at all.” Okay. I hear the corrections of stutters. “Oh that one was tight. Let's try it again, easy.” These are things that can send a message to our students that they are doing something wrong. Okay. And I think that we have to be very careful. I'm going to talk about that because we do have to walk a line of helping students communicate in an easier way, but not drive the fluency train.

Nina Reeves: What I mean by that is that, this is a neurologically based disorder, and I'm going to go into a slight bit of hyper bully so here's your warning. But it's to drive home. What I believe is a quintessential point. We would never say to any of our other students with neurologically based disorders that they need to do something 10% less. A child with cerebral palsy, you need to be 30% less attack sick, have less attack sick muscle movements during your day. We would never say to them, you must have fluent walking. That's the right way.

Nina Reeves: I'm trying to drive home a point that we're talking about neurologically based issues, and that it's not realistic to set a bar of what we want to hear. It's about what this child is able to do and excepting that stuttering is a part of their speech. And we're talking about school age today, and I want to make that disclaimer. When I go and speak, school age and early childhood therapy are vastly different from each other. They have some crossovers in assessment and some parts of the treatment, but just like the therapy is different for these two age ranges. What I'm talking about in some of the specifics that we'll be going through are really about school aged kids.

Nina Reeves: But the acceptance piece that I'm talking about first, that transcends everything. It is okay to stutter, all of it. Not just some of it, not just 2% of it, not just 5% of it, but it has to be okay, bottom line. That's our inform of our therapy that it is okay to stutter. And I think that if we as professionals can decrease that stigma around stuttering by what we do, and what we say and how we present information about stuttering to our students and families and teachers, I think we can do a lot of good to decrease bullying. Because bullying, obviously is surrounded by stigma, that something is wrong with our children who stutter. It's not, it's natural and normal for children who stutter to stutter.

Speaker 1: Oh my goodness. So many good closing here. I don't like scribbling away like crazy. Oh my gosh. I just want to recap a couple of them. I know we have four more items in terms of our role in decreasing the impact of stuttering, but this is too good to not unpack a little more. So, the most important thing that we can do to minimize bullying is to overarchingly change the message surrounding stuttering, which is amazing. Some of the other takeaways under that is fluent speech is not a gold standard of convenience. We can't help students communicate in an easier way, and that's the goal, and again, emphasizing that point, it's okay to stutter all of it.

Speaker 1: I feel like we need posters of these and just put them around our speech rooms because that is... I think that just encapsulates so much of what I've learned from you, and I thought that was incredibly helpful. So thank you.

Nina Reeves: Thank you for that recap. I'm glad those messages came out because it really... We have many things to do in therapy, so it's not like it's okay to stutter. You don't need therapy. We have to begin and end with acceptance. If we begin and end with the idea of acceptance and not tolerance, because I believe the word tolerance is a slight. It's like, you know the word tolerance, like I have to tolerate that. That just means something's icky. But I'm just going to be okay with it. No, I mean accept, full on acceptance, and when we begin and end with that, we can also meet our students where they are. We can help them learn to communicate easier and with less struggle. But all through the idea of everything we do in therapy, the underlying drive for us and what informs our therapy is acceptance.

Speaker 1: I love that. And I really like... because sometimes you might, like I think some SLPs might be thinking, well if we you alluded to, if we're accepting it then why are we working on it? But the goal is to help students communicate more easily, because it's not easy to communicate when that's happening. And it's okay to stutter but we want to make it easier for them.

Nina Reeves: Exactly. Exactly. You've got it. That message makeover is number one, and then these other things that can help minimize bullying. Okay. Because we're not, I wish we had two more hours and we'd get into actual the therapy stuff. With the techniques and all of that. How do you manage that, if it's okay to give a kid a technique, of course it is, but not because so that they won't stutter. We don't give them techniques so they won't stutter, we give them techniques to communicate easier. And that's the best part of the message makeover.

Nina Reeves: I wish we had more time, but once we get that idea and start formulating from there, I think when we focus on facts, that's number two, is to focus on facts to help decrease, to help minimize bullying for children who stutter is that we get really informed about the facts about stuttering and then we give it. We help our kids understand the facts at their levels of readiness and cognitive abilities. Because, once you get to know what's going on with stuttering as a person who stutters, it can help to decrease those negative affective or reactions, the thoughts or the feelings around communication.

Nina Reeves: When you learn the science of stuttering and the history of stuttering at whatever age level you can, as therapists, we adapt that through the age levels. But even little kids can learn some of these things and make it less mystery filled or quotes air quotes weird that stuttering happens. Then that shores them up for being able to handle reactions from other people. When my kids learn to understand about their own communication struggles, they can matter of factly talk to other people about it. It's like, “Oh yeah, I stutter sometimes. That's the way I talk sometimes, that's stuttering.”

Nina Reeves: It becomes more of a matter of fact, I always tell my students, listeners will take their cues from you. When you come into the space as okay with yourself and some stuttering, then you're going to give off the idea that you can't be targeted. Bring it on dude. It's just stuttering, I don't know what your deal is. I'm sorry, that was my little... I work with a lot of adolescents.

Speaker 1: I've love that. It's so true. This could apply. You could replace stuttering with any other thing that anyone has going on, even as adults. So I think that's such an important lesson and if that's something that we can share with our students, that's amazing. Thank you so much for breaking that down.

Nina Reeves: The facts are important and when we focus on facts, then the kids can help other people understand those facts. Number three would be moving them into response readiness. Sorry for all the alliteration but these are things that help me remember stuff so. Number three would be response readiness. That would be helping a child who stutters understand bullying, the way we've described it today and that's why... in our bundle that we created, we have a workbook for students and one for parents, one for teachers and administrators and of course the guide for SLPs to walk everybody through this.

Nina Reeves: Because understanding the difference between a curious comment and a bully comment helps students who stutter learn, pick their battles and what is what. And when they learn to understand bullying, they can start to develop a trove of responses that make sense to them. So we're going to help kids get ready to respond. Whatever that looks like, whatever's appropriate in that moment, but they need someone to brainstorm with them. That's us to coach them and say, well, how did that work? And do you want to change that a little bit or does that make sense?

Nina Reeves: Because some of the things that people say you should do in the bullying literature, general bullying, is to tell them about things. Well, that's great, but I'm a kid who stutters. In this moment of being bullied. Do you really expect me to give this bully information about stuttering? Are you kidding me? I'm getting bullied because I just stuttered, and you want me to have a conversation. I'm not sure a lot of my students would be willing to do that. They might be able to master a couple of sentences or... But they have to come up with what's good for them, and they have to come up with a lot of different responses that make sense in different ways.

Nina Reeves: Brainstorming and getting a menu going and, Bill Murphy talked about making a movie role playing how you would react if somebody said this or that or did this or that. It helps prepare kids to do this on their own. But we are there as their coaches.

Speaker 1: I love that. And as you're talking through that, I was trying to think of how I would, if I was a child who stuttered and how, what responses I would add to just to my little menu of our big menu of resources potentially, and it's so interesting. Do you have any favorites that you've come across over the years?

Nina Reeves: Well, thank you for asking because yes, I do. Well my number one favorite thing to do is to start a list of the difference between curious and bullying. Because kids are going to get asked about their speech sometimes, in ways like, “Oh, why do you talk like that? Why do you go [inaudible 00:30:10]” Now, is that a bullying thing? Could be, it depends on how sensitive the child who stutters feels at that moment. But if they can start to say to themselves and help digest, is this some person trying to be mean right now, and am I feeling attacked? Or is this somebody who's curious and I can give them information, short bits of information? That helped me.

Nina Reeves: So, we start there. Then I'd like to brainstorm as a group, get everybody... Here are some things I think are good ideas we read from books. And there's lots of books out there, concept books about bullying and teasing just in general, and you can get some information from that usually written by psychologists.

Nina Reeves: But you can get those ideas and get them all on paper and let the child see that menu. The child comes up with ideas, the parents, maybe a sibling or a peer can come up with ideas, and then have the child be able to choose. One that has worked for me with certain kids is more like the look. We call it the look. I know we're not on a video cast, but it's you just give him the look, really, it's that really look, like really? Or walk away with attitude, not just walk away, because we have to make sure we're not walking away going in our heads, “Oh, he's right. I can't talk. This is so weird.” But more like, walking away with that attitude like, “You do not deserve my time. That is so egregious. What you just did is so mean. I'm not even going to get involved with you.” And then there's other things, there's so many. I have a lot of adolescent boys who just look at them and go, “Dude, really?” or, “Wow, so not cool.”

Nina Reeves: It depends on their lingo. I let them pick, it's the idea of, so not cool, although I think that's rather dated. I let them pick their own ideas. But the idea is to not overly engaged in that moment all the time. You have to pick and choose when you can engage and when it's time to not give the person what they want, and studies will tell you. Research shows us that bullies feed, they call it the need to feed. Bullies feed on reaction. So if you can find a way to respond to a bully in a way that helps you and doesn't feed them, then that's the balance.

Speaker 1: That is so key. I love that. One of the things that I really like, if the child who stutters has a friend... I don't know, I haven't actually had this discussion with a child who stutters and one of their peers, but if they can enlist their peers to help like, “Hey, next time Johnny says this, can you help me?” And maybe they can come up with a way to... I know that can get tricky with adolescence. I'm curious if you've ever done that because it would be even more powerful if the peer who doesn't stutter says, “Wow, so not cool."

Nina Reeves: Exactly. crosstalk Agrees or says at first. I have done that. That's that part where you get the bystanders involved, that's what we wrote a lot in those books, about is because it would be bring a friend to speech day and maybe that would be a topic. We would talk about, well how would you respond if someone said that, I would be the bully and I would use a Bill Murphy quote, they go stutter head, stutter head, and see what we would role play, what might be a way to respond and how would you support your friend in this moment. But we have to be very careful to not enable the young child who stutters to rely on other people to take care of this for them.

Nina Reeves: We balance it as this is your support system while we're shoring you up to handle these things on your own in your future. Because we don't want parents always swooping in, we want parents and teachers swooping in if there's any level here that is just so egregious or egregious enough to warrant that. But we also want parents and teachers to be involved in it while bringing the child along in understanding how they want to handle it and whether it'll help or harm.

Nina Reeves: Because I think we all have, we may all, I'm just going to say, I have of moments from my adolescence where my mom got involved in something and it was worse, because she got involved. And so it would have been much better if we would've figured out a way for her to help me and support me in finding a way to handle that, maybe with teacher or principal support. So, it's a balance and that's why people write books on this and that's why there's resources on this all over the place. Is because we're not counselors, but when it comes to communication disorders, this is our scope of practice and we need to be ready to be part of that support system.

Speaker 1: That is a helpful recap of that. And I love that... that's such a helpful perspective too that we can maybe enlist the friends in the beginning, but that we really want to empower the child or student who stutters to have those skills to defend themselves because they won't always have a friend. And I definitely agree that sometimes having teachers and parents intervene just makes it worse because like you said, all of those contexts where the teachers and parents aren't in the bathrooms and the lunch room and the bus, I think that sometimes just makes it get worse. So that's really a really good reminder there.

Nina Reeves: As you said, each situation is so individualized. There is no right or wrong answer to any of this. There is no one way to do it. Parents and teachers are not always worse, sometimes it's absolutely imperative. But it's the how. It's not always the if, to get others involved. It's the how. And then it's how long, because like I said, you want to make sure that we're empowering that child. And I think that's a great segue to number four, which is to shore up support systems. That brings in our parents, our teachers, our peers, and by the way, our siblings of kids who stutter. Because those siblings are sometimes really great advocates for their siblings and sometimes they're the ones doing the bullying.

Nina Reeves: I have a wonderful saying that I don't know who I learned from, but your siblings know where your buttons are because they installed them. And I think that's an amazing way to think about it. Sometimes siblings know how to get you and so they can actually be part of a problem. So we have to be very good detectives about where is this child having the most trouble with negative reactions to their stuttering or ignorant reactions to their stuttering. Then we're going to, pardon me, rally the support systems around this child.

Speaker 1: Okay, perfect. And then did you have some information to share with us about rally those support systems or should we jump to number five?

Nina Reeves: I absolutely do. Just as a part of being in the public schools, what I find wonderful is that even if the parent isn't as easily accessible, the lots of times the siblings are and for sure their peers are and their teachers are. And this is where these children spend 180 days, six hours a day. And these are very big parts of their communication environment. So we have to get people, at least in the same book about stuttering, if not on the same page. And that goes back to the message makeover and focusing on the facts, and preparing children to be ready to respond to inappropriate albeit sometimes, not mean, but inappropriate responses to their stuttering. And by getting involved with those people in the child's environment and helping them understand stuttering and understand what is appropriate to discuss or not discuss or not discuss. Let's just give you this one.

Nina Reeves: I had a teacher I was working with and we were getting the child to get ready for a class presentation. This was months and months and months of work because the child had been getting out of all the presentations, not because the speech therapist said it was a good idea, because the teacher just didn't want to make the child nervous. So that loving, wonderful teacher was putting the wrong... lowering expectations for this child who stutters and in turn, the child who stutters wasn't getting ready to speak like the other kids in class. So, we were working on this and the child eventually got to do their presentation in class. The goal was to talk the way you talk and not to let your stutters roll. The child wanted to use pausing, so that was one of his goals and then the teacher came up afterwards and said to the Child, "Oh, that was so good. You didn't stutter once."

Nina Reeves: And so there was this moment where all of the work that we had been doing about letting you be okay with how you talk came unraveling. Inadvertently the teacher had focused on fluency and congratulated on fluency instead of congratulated on the risk for getting up in front of the class and the risk of being maybe singled out by your classmates. So, shoring up those support systems meant that that teacher needed me and the child to help her understand what that child needed at that time, which was not to think about how he was talking, but the fact that he was. So, that transcends all those areas.

Nina Reeves: And the last thing I want to say about support systems is, it's a very big part of my career with kids who stutter to get them involved with support organizations outside of therapy. In whatever way that looks, being on a Facebook page or being part of an Instagram page for the National Stuttering Association, or attending a chapter meeting of a kids group or a team group. Going to a friend's conference or an NSA conference or... there's many and I can send you lots of say, and the British Stammering Association has an amazing new initiatives.

Nina Reeves: Whatever that looks like for a child to be more involved with people who stutter, and have families, be more involved with families of people who stutter. Because that's where the experiential learning is just as much, if not more important, than anything you learn in therapy. It's, "I'm okay and it's okay to stutter and these people are successful and everybody's doing their thing and I can achieve whatever I want." And that comes from at least being connected to some type of organization or resource out there.

Speaker 1: I love those suggestions, so incredibly helpful. Can you tell us a little bit about the fifth strategy that we can use?

Nina Reeves: I can. This Leads us nicely into the next question of which I believe we were going to talk about what others can do. When we shore up those support systems and then we try to help as speech pathologists, we try to help find out about the stakeholders. So we become stakeholder savvy to keep the alliteration going. We want to help, to first of all, find out what do the teachers know, what do the parents know and what do the administrators understand about stuttering in general and about the effects of bullying, about stuttering in specific? And so we want to help those stakeholders set a positive communication environment, which means that the school, the home therapy is a safe place.

Nina Reeves: It's a safe space to stutter, it's a safe space to play with your stutter, to learn about stuttering, to complain about your stutter, to... all of that stuff. To talk about your experiences of being a child who stutters in an academic, in a social environment. Again, we're going to help them learn the facts. So our role is to help the teachers learn the facts and that shores them up to do the more appropriate things in the classroom and be able to handle a lot of things on their own, even though we're in the wings to help. We want teachers and others to get better at watching for bullying.

Nina Reeves: I'm not sure that... I know that there are initiatives across the country to help teachers and administrators and school staff be more cognizant that this can be happening and what to look for and how to look for it, and then not only watch out for it, but learn better ways to handle it. Who do I go to if I see? I'm the cafeteria monitor, who am I supposed to go to if I see this happening, what am I looking for and who do I go to. Or do I try to handle it on my own, and has anybody trained me?

Nina Reeves: And then to create the support systems within the school setting, where people can reach out and everyone knows their roles and when to refer. I'm a big believer in when in doubt refer out. When in my scope of practice, my role as a speech language pathologist, if it rises to a level that is no longer just part of the communication issue but bigger than that, then I'm referring to the school psychologist or the counselors. That's because I know what the support system looks like for this in my district. So, that stakeholder savvy really helps us figure out how to work together. Because when we all work together and have some of the same expectations and goals and savvy we can really move the needle and make great strides in minimizing bullying for kids who stutter.

Speaker 1: It's such an amazing picture to think of if all the things that you described, if those would be happening, that would be absolutely amazing. But I know that there's probably some SLPs listening who are really thinking like, “Wow, that sounds so incredibly amazing. I don't feel like I have any of that at my school.” What suggestions would you give for an SLP in that situation? What do you think are some, maybe one or two easy things that they could do to start working towards that goal?

Nina Reeves: Great question. Off the top of my head, I'm going to say that if I was starting from scratch again, the number one thing that I would want to do is hook up with my administrators team and say, you know what, I'm going to talk to you about children who stutter right now and I'm going to talk to you about these statistics that are just really more than I ever understood, and I'm going to say that I'd like to know how we can start tapping in the special needs arena to the resources that are already on the ground for. You can't just say zero tolerance without something to back that up. So, what are the resources on the ground already in our district or on my campus that I can get hooked into. And then how can I help support?

Nina Reeves: Because look, I have this booklet from stuttering... I'm not trying to sell everybody a book, but I'm saying, here's this booklet from stuttering therapy resources for administrators and teachers. I want you to take a look at this and see if you can meet with me again. It's a little baby read and you could do it on your lunch hour, and I respect your time, but I want to meet with you again and talk about, how can we start to set a safe space? And just like you said at the top of this, this isn't really just about stuttering. I don't know about you, but I hope everybody is thinking about their kids with autism and any other challenge that's noticeable and that kids, especially kids who bully, will hone in on.

Nina Reeves: So we're making it a safe space to have differences because we all have differences. This isn't just about our kids on our caseload, but the kid who's not in any specialized services has differences from the other kids sitting across from them. So, it's just this environment. How can we create this safe space and celebrate our differences? And I would start there. That's where I'd start. I would learn a little bit about especially one area of my service and use that as the jumping off point.

Speaker 1: That makes so much sense. And that's something that is completely actionable, because you've already shared those statistics and maybe if I were going into a school that didn't have anything in place, I might re-listen to some of the statistics you shared, jot down some notes and then I have that booklet, so I would bring that with me and we can share the link to it in case anyone else wants to take a look. Then just starting that conversation, and like you said, the booklet focuses on students who stutter, but I really think it could apply across our caseload and across the school as a whole because you're right, we all have differences and it should be a safe space for all of the differences.

Speaker 1: I've even had students on my caseload, just articulation only students have, if they just have one sound error, they get teased and bullied for that. So it's just... it's happening all of the time unfortunately and so taking action can have such an amazing impact for so many students.

Nina Reeves: I don't want anybody listening to this to think I'm adding yet another big project to your already over worked little world. Because I totally get it and I'm in the trenches and I understand that we're not going to, maybe or maybe not, be the bullying bullying girl of our district. That's why I say go to whatever team. If the administration doesn't go for it, then go to the Special Ed team, your administrators in special services and see if you can get something going there.

Nina Reeves: But that's what I mean though, go to a team, which means everybody has something to do. It doesn't fall all on you. You're just bringing something to light that's in the darkness. People do not always understand what we do, raise your hand if you think that's true. They don't always understand what the quiet kid in the back of the room, I never hear him stutter. Well that's because he's not talking. Why isn't he talking? Because he's afraid to take the risk that he'll be bullied. There's a number of reasons why they don't take the risk but one of them is being singled out and being different at a time in their lives when no one wants to be different.

Nina Reeves: And so, we have to just shine a light on it and then things can happen from there. But come armed with your statistics and some solution, the booklet has solutions. Here are some things you can put in place. Administrator, here are some things you can do in your classroom. Teacher, mom and dad when the child is at home, these are things you can do. There's a booklet for each and every one of those people that I just talked about. And when I say parent, think of grand parent or whatever care giver that child has. As a team, we can find ways to minimize the bullying and to increase that child's ability to effectively deal with bullying that will happen.

Nina Reeves: We can't erase it at this point, so how are we going to shore up our students who stutter to find out they are just fine no matter what anybody else says about their speech.

Speaker 1: That's so good. I just wanted to have that sink in a second, and that's so incredibly helpful. I also love what you said too that it doesn't have to be a big giant project that we're taking on. We can reach out and get a team together to help us do this and there's amazing resources out there to make it. We don't have to start from scratch. We've got the research already that we can pull and we've guides and tools that can help us get that set up.

Speaker 1: So thank you so much Nina for putting this altogether. I absolutely love the five step framework and the alliteration there to help us remember, and I so appreciate the actionable steps that you shared with us and it definitely shows that you've been in the trenches and I'm just so grateful that you shared your wealth of knowledge and experience with us to hopefully be able to impact some students in our own schools and help tackle some of the bullying that's happening.

Nina Reeves: Well, I appreciate you letting me talk about this topic because it's very much a part of our role as therapists and part of our therapy planning. I love the idea of getting kids ready even when it's not happening so they can, instead of a reaction, it's proactive and the kids can learn to respond rather than react and that's always a much more thoughtful way to do it. Do you mind if I give a discount code?

Speaker 1: Yeah, go for it.

Nina Reeves: Okay. Well, because you're wonderful and because we got to chance to do this, I want to give the opportunity for the listeners to have a 10% discount on stutteringtherapyresources.com and you'll use the code SLP now.

Speaker 1: Perfect. Thank you so much. So we can all go grab some of those wonderful resources that you just mentioned. And just to make it easy for people, if you go to slpnow.com/25, you can get links to all of the resources that Nina mentioned and I'll work on tracking down the citations and everything too. But then I'll also link to Nina Reeves site and her email and where you can find those different resources that we mentioned. So that'll be a really nice hub to access all of the things.

Speaker 1: So thank you so much, Nina.

Nina Reeves: Thank you so much. You have a wonderful day.

 

marisha-mets-about-mobile

Hi there! I'm Marisha. I am a school-based SLP who is all about working smarter, not harder. I created the SLP Now Membership and love sharing tips and tricks to help you save time so you can focus on what matters most--your students AND yourself.

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