Braving the Bullies What Speech-Language Pathologists Can Do Features
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Features  |   September 01, 2004
Braving the Bullies
Author Notes
  • Nancy McKinley, is the owner and CEO of Thinking Publications, and an adjunct faculty member in the Dept. of Communication Disorders at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Contact her at Nancy@ThinkingPublications.com.
    Nancy McKinley, is the owner and CEO of Thinking Publications, and an adjunct faculty member in the Dept. of Communication Disorders at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Contact her at Nancy@ThinkingPublications.com.×
Article Information
Development / Speech, Voice & Prosodic Disorders / Special Populations / Autism Spectrum / School-Based Settings / Professional Issues & Training / Language Disorders / Reading & Writing Disorders / Social Communication & Pragmatics Disorders / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Features
Features   |   September 01, 2004
Braving the Bullies
The ASHA Leader, September 2004, Vol. 9, 16-17. doi:10.1044/leader.FTR6.09172004.16
The ASHA Leader, September 2004, Vol. 9, 16-17. doi:10.1044/leader.FTR6.09172004.16
In too many schools, the cycle of bully-victim communication is an everyday event that strikes terror in the victims. An estimated 15% of absenteeism from school is attributed to fearful victims avoiding bullies. Four out of five students in grades 8-10 have experienced harassment and bullying at some time in school according to the American Association of University Women. In 37 school shootings by students, more than two-thirds of the attackers had endured long-term, severe harassment and bullying that motivated their attacks.
Victims of long-term bullying react with either explosion or implosion. The explosion children become violence statistics, flying into a rage that harms others and shocks the community. The implosion children become bullycide victims (i.e., the subgroup of youths who take their own lives after long-term victimization). Currently the United States does not know how many youth suicides are actually bullycides.
How should speech-language pathologists respond to this hazard? Be aware that children with mental and physical disabilities are two to three times more likely to be targets of bullies. Risk factors include language and learning disorders, fluency disorders, intelligibility problems, cognitive disabilities, and autism spectrum disorders, to name a few.
Teach Victims to Escape
Teach victims how to escape that role and potential victims how to avoid succumbing to that position. (See the sidebar on p. 17 for how not to respond to bullies.) Bullies are looking for an angry, defensive, or apathetic response. Instead, teach healthy communication responses to your clients:
  • Assertive statements: In response to “You’re so ugly,” say in a strong, confident voice, “Leave me alone.”

  • Negative assertions: In response to “You’re so ugly,” agree with the weakness and magnify it, which is not the reaction the bully wants (e.g., “I know! And you should have seen me yesterday!”).

  • Neutral responses: In response to “You’re so ugly,” say “Thanks for telling me that.”

  • “Crazy” responses: In response to “You’re so ugly,” say “No thanks. I don’t want an ice cream cone.” (Crazy responses need to be used judiciously, lest anyone judge a student accordingly! But when an absurd bullying remark has been made, responding with an even crazier statement again disarms the bully and is not the reaction expected, thus disrupting the cycle of bully-victim communication.)

  • “I” statements: In response to “You’re so ugly,” say “I feel hurt when you say that to me.” (“I” statements are used with people who care about maintaining a relationship, which is not usually the case between a bully and victim in a school situation.)

The goal is to help your clients avoid becoming targets or remaining victims. Knowing how to use language is one of their most powerful tools to that end.
You can help advocate for a school-wide policy if one doesn’t exist. Help stamp out ill-guided adult responses. Don’t say: “Get along (with the bully),” “Fight back,” “don’t be a wimp,” “Bullying is part of growing up,” “don’t rat on other kids,” and “You bring on the bullying by how you act.”
Suggest Teaching Resources
Suggest and share resources for teaching appropriate social skills to change bully and victim behaviors. (Some sample resources are included on the ASHA Leader Online. See Web link at end of article,).
What about the bully who is on your caseload? For starters, teach perspective-taking skills and:
  • Show the bully what he or she has done wrong.

  • Accept no excuses (and no blame and no “kids will be kids” explanations).

  • Mediate solving the problem through restitution, resolution, and reconciliation.

  • Leave the bully’s dignity intact; attack the behavior, not the child.

Almost all bullies have experienced abuse themselves. A zero tolerance policy based on punishment is efficient but not effective. After the detention or suspension, the bullies are still bullies. A better response is to bring together the bully and the victim, their parents/caregivers, and involved professionals, including administrators, in one room to begin the healing process. Do we own that plan as a profession? No. But the more we all work cooperatively, the better.
Bullying is universal. The responsibility of breaking the bully-victim violence cycle rests with each of us.
Definitions

Bully—Someone who abuses another person. A bully has contempt for someone whom he or she considers inferior and unworthy of respect.

Victim—The person being bullied.

Stooge—Someone who follows after the bully and does what he or she is told, even if it is wrong.

Bystander—Someone who watches bullying, but is not involved.

How NOT to Respond to Bullies
  • Arguing or trying to prove you’re right

  • Retaliating verbally or physically

  • Telling the bully you’re going to get help

  • Using sarcasm

  • Crying, whining, pouting, running away

  • Ignoring (when ignoring isn’t stopping the bullying)

  • Fighting, getting angry or violent

  • Getting revenge

  • Portraying yourself as a victim

Resources
American Association of University Women. (2001). Bullying, teasing, and harassment in school. AAUW in Action, 3(1), pp. 1, 5.
American Association of University Women. (2001). Bullying, teasing, and harassment in school. AAUW in Action, 3(1), pp. 1, 5.×
Boatwright, B. H., Mathis, T. A., & Smith-Rex, S. J. (1998). Getting equipped to stop bullying: A kid’s survival kit for understanding and coping with violence in the schools. Minneapolis, MN: Educational Media Corporation.
Boatwright, B. H., Mathis, T. A., & Smith-Rex, S. J. (1998). Getting equipped to stop bullying: A kid’s survival kit for understanding and coping with violence in the schools. Minneapolis, MN: Educational Media Corporation.×
Coloroso, B. (2003). The bully, the bullied, and the bystander. New York: HarperResource.
Coloroso, B. (2003). The bully, the bullied, and the bystander. New York: HarperResource.×
Gajewski, N., Hirn, P., & Mayo, P., (1993). Social star Peer interaction skills (Book 2). Eau Claire, WI: Thinking Publications.
Gajewski, N., Hirn, P., & Mayo, P., (1993). Social star Peer interaction skills (Book 2). Eau Claire, WI: Thinking Publications.×
Horne, A. M., Bartolomucci, C. L., & Newman-Carlson, D. (2003). Bully busters: A teacher’s manual for helping bullies, victims, and bystanders (Grades K–5). Champaign, IL: Research Press.
Horne, A. M., Bartolomucci, C. L., & Newman-Carlson, D. (2003). Bully busters: A teacher’s manual for helping bullies, victims, and bystanders (Grades K–5). Champaign, IL: Research Press.×
Newman, D. A., Horne, A. M., & Bartolomucci, C. L. (2000). Bully busters: A teacher’s manual for helping bullies, victims, and bystanders (Grades 6–8). Champaign, IL: Research Press.
Newman, D. A., Horne, A. M., & Bartolomucci, C. L. (2000). Bully busters: A teacher’s manual for helping bullies, victims, and bystanders (Grades 6–8). Champaign, IL: Research Press.×
Ogden, S. N. (2001). Words will NEVER hurt me: Helping kids handle teasing, bullying, and putdowns. Seattle, WA: Elton-Wolf Publishing.
Ogden, S. N. (2001). Words will NEVER hurt me: Helping kids handle teasing, bullying, and putdowns. Seattle, WA: Elton-Wolf Publishing.×
Thinking Publications (2003). Nickel Takes On Teasing [computer software]. Eau Claire, WI: Author.
Thinking Publications (2003). Nickel Takes On Teasing [computer software]. Eau Claire, WI: Author.×
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September 2004
Volume 9, Issue 17