Childhood hearing loss requires children to overcome many barriers with learning, language, and social communication. When a bully is involved, this social gap can be too wide for a child to handle on their own. Developing an anti-bullying plan of action is the best way to help empower children with a functional difference to cope with these challenging situations.
According to an instructional pamphlet put out by out UK’s Family Lives there are three types of bullying a child with a functional difference may encounter:
“Manipulative bullying: where a person is controlling someone;
Conditional friendship: where a child thinks someone is being their friend but times of friendliness are alternated with times of bullying;
Exploitative bullying: where features of a child’s condition are used to bully them.” It’s important to know the types of bullying, so that you as a parent, grandparent, or teacher can recognize signs of bullying. It's also important, because finding out if a child or grandchild is being bullied and getting the details of bullying is the first step in an anti-bullying plan of action.
1. Communication-Probing questions aren’t the way to get your child to speak about being bullied. A better way would be for a parent or grandparent to initiate activities that allow self-expression through play or drawing. This gives a less threatening vehicle for dialogue. Getting a child to speak of being bullied helps reassure them they are not helpless. But remember to stay calm. If a child sees that you are upset, they feel less empowered and sure. Communication is also about collecting details like where the bullying took place, who was involved, and when it happened in order to share with school officials.
2. Contact School-After your child has shared the details of their bullying with you, it is important to contact school officials and other teachers. Remember to stay calm, focus less on the functional difference of your child's hearing loss, but give concrete details of the bullying. If possible, support details with witness accounts.
3. Affirmation -In the inspirational movie, The Help, one of the main characters Aibileen (played by Viola Davis) empowered the children she raised with a affirmation, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” Developing a mantra that your child can think to themselves when things become difficult helps restore positive thinking. This affirmation should be something tailored to the child, their abilities, and sensibilities.
4. Declarations-To help prepare kids for bullying teach them “come backs”. Come backs sometimes let a bully know that they can’t push a child around, but the real benefit is it teaches your child that he or she is not helpless. They can’t change what a person says, but they can stick up for themselves. As the American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association points out in their article, Braving the Bullies: What Speech-Language Pathologists Can Do by Nancy McKinley, here are a few examples of what your child might say to a bully:
Assertive statements: In response to "You're so ugly," say in a strong, confident voice, "Leave me alone."
Negative declarations: 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…. But responding with an even crazier statement disarms the bully…., thus disrupting the cycle of bully-victim communication.)
5. Evasion- If your child is unable to verbally confront a bully, teach him or her to walk away with dignity. You can also help them recognize when a bullying situation may occur and how to avoid them. Make them aware of other teachers in the school—teachers who might be closer to the bathroom, their locker, or other areas where the bullying takes place. If they know where to go in these situations, it can make all the difference. And if it is at all possible talk to the teachers your child might be seeking out.
If you’re an educator and want to address bullying with a hard of hearing child, remember to follow basic communication guidelines for dealing with people who have a hearing loss.
6. Supportive Kids—Arrange play dates outside of school. If this is not possible, because the bully or bullies have poisoned the minds of other students, search out kids who are are outside the school district or who are home schooled or who also have childhood hearing loss. Contact with other children is one of the best things you can do to help your child feel included and less "bullied".
7. Esteem Building Activities—Your child may be into drawing, reading, video games, writing or soccer, but whatever activity your child loves can have a positive affect on self-esteem when it is used as a means to meet and communicate with others of a like mind. A book group, clubs for gamers, youth writing programs, soccer at the YMCA, are all supportive ways in which children can reach beyond the small world of home and school and connect with their own self-esteem and independence.
8. Adaptability—Make sure that your child understands that there are plans A, B, and C for a reason. If the way you cope with bullies doesn't work the first time, revisit the steps or develop entirely new strategies. The important thing to remember is that these ideas must be fluid, adaptable, and involve the child’s input. If your child tells you, "That's not going to work" ask him or her what they think will work and make the best plan together.
9. Classroom Support- Speak with your child’s audiologists or ENT. There are many new technologies and types of assistive listening devices that can aid a child in hearing better in the classroom. If a child feels more secure about their ability to function in a classroom, they will also feel more secure about themselves. A secure child is one who is more empowered to deal with bullies. There are also sources for funding for hearing aids, so be sure to check them out! If you have any news or updates on bullying and children with hearing loss, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
McKinely Nancy, Braving the Bullies: What Speech-Language Pathologists Can Do Taken from http://www.asha.org/Publications/leader/2004/040921/040921d.htm, Taken on March 7, 2012
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