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Bullying and the Speech Therapist’s Role

by on May 18, 2014

Bullying and the Role of SLP’s

Based on the article, “Bullying Be Gone!” in the ASHA LEADER May 2014 by Gordon Blood , PH.D, CCC-SLP (

May is Better Hearing and Speech Month (BHSM) and provides the opportunity for speech/language pathologists (SLPs) and audiologists to publicize their roles in helping people overcome communication difficulties.   A very current and prevalent topic in the news is that of bullying in our schools and amongst our children’s peer groups.   In fact, bullying has reached the point of being a public health and education crisis in our nation’s schools.  What does this have to do with our role as communication disorders specialists? Quite a lot in fact!   In a recent article “Bullying Be Gone”, in the ASHA Leader, a monthly publication by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (May 2014), Gordon Blood, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, shed some light on our nation’s struggle with school bullying. He shared how we, as SLPs, can help in both bullying prevention and intervention.   Many children on our caseloads, whether in the school or private practice setting, are targets of bullying due to their communication deficits.  They may be teased because they “talk funny,” or because they have difficulty reading or because they stutter or because they do not know how to read social cues of others or because they wear a hearing aid.   SLPs are often the first and only adults with whom these students may spend 1:1 time and often may confess to us the difficulties they face at school or on the playground.   In fact, according to this article, teachers only see approximately 1 in every 25 episodes of bullying.   If the children on our caseloads trust us and share personal information about what they have faced, we have the obligation to listen to them, to empathize with them, and to support them as they go about reporting the incidents to the principal or teacher.

Bullying, according to the article, can take the form of physical (e.g., pushing, shoving), verbal (joking, ridiculing), relational (spreading rumors, being ostracized) and cyberbullying (sending malicious texts or postings about a person on the internet or social media).    Regardless of what type of bullying occurs, it is considered bullying if there is actual harm, threat of harm, or intention to do harm; if there is a power imbalance between the two parties; and if it is a repeated event over time.   Who is most vulnerable to bullying? Many of the children that we see on our caseloads are vulnerable due to their various disabilities and impairments.   As responsible adults in these children’s’ lives, whether we are at school or whether we see them in a clinical setting, our responsibility to them is to listen, to offer them support, to let them know that they have done nothing wrong, and to let them know that we will try to help them.

Every child needs to feel safe in all settings.   If we witness an incident of bullying, this article recommends the following using the acronym “STOP IT.”  Stop the bullying immediately; Present immediate consequences for the bullying; Instruct witnesses and bystanders that we will not tolerate this behavior and to tell a teacher or adult if they see this type of behavior; Teach intervention strategies to students, adults, personnel, and parents to intervene in these situations; and to continue to work with children with social-language difficulties to identify these instances and report them appropriately.


Our role as SLPs is constantly shifting and changing with the times we are living in! But what doesn’t change is our dedication to the children on our caseloads who rely on us to help them overcome their communication difficulties.


Jodi Negrin, MS, CCC-SLP

MOSAIC Children’s Therapy Clinic

Bellevue, WA


Great links to articles related to this blog post:


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