While in Colorado this summer, I was able to volunteer at the Colorado Neurological Institute’s(CNI) Cochlear Implant camp. It was a blast getting to play with and talk to the kids and watch them reunite with old friends. However, among parents, a topic that’s not very enjoyable to discuss came up- bullying. According to research by Andrea Warner-Czyz, Ph.D., CCC-A and Betty Loy, AuD, children with hearing loss report higher levels of bullying, ranging from 17-67% greater, when compared to their hearing peers. Dr. Warner-Czyz, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Dallas, presented her ongoing research findings in a session to parents at the camp. She emphasized that there are different types of bullying, and children with hearing loss experienced exclusion (13% more), coercion (9% more), and teasing (8% more) significantly more than their hearing peers. You can find the full PowerPoint at CNI’s website.
Many of the parents in the room could attest to the hurt their child felt when not receiving an invitation to a play date or birthday party. And while knowing about the prevalence of bullying is important, there was one thing the parents wanted to know even more- what can be done about it? How can we prevent our children from having to deal with the heartache that comes along with bullying? Oftentimes, kids who are being excluded don’t even realize the extent to which they are being left out- how should that be handled? These aren’t easy questions, and there are no simple answers. However, I thought I would share some tips that come from my own personal experience.
Be open. On more than one occasion, I’ve had new friends comment, “Wow, you’re so nice. I always thought you were standoffish.” I make an effort to be kind to everyone, so I was absolutely horrified the first time I heard that comment. After some digging, I found out that people would often call my name from across campus or try to tell me something, only for me to ‘”ignore” them and keep walking. By being upfront and telling people about my hearing loss from the get-go, I am able to prevent misunderstandings later down the line.
Make a joke. Embrace that sometimes you might not hear everything. Humor goes a long way. When I have a misunderstanding in social situations, cracking a joke about the confusion shows the people around me that I’m comfortable and puts them at ease.
Be honest. People are much more willing to repeat themselves if you tell them you’re struggling than if you try to fake your way through the conversation.
Tell people how they can help. While I have always been open about my deafness, I have occasionally hesitated to ask for additional assistance. Almost every time I make a request like “Could you please face me?” or “Would you mind speaking up?” once I reach my breaking point, I am almost always met with the response, “I’m happy to help, but I wish you had asked me sooner!”
Visit AG Bell’s website for some more ideas to combat bullying.