Tricia Hedinger, MS, CCC-SLP, BCS-F, associate professor and speech-language pathologist in the College of Health Professions at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, has co-authored a book about childhood stuttering, titled “BullyBlossom: A Tale of Overcoming Bullies and Embracing Stuttering to Live a Life of Achievement.” Hedinger wrote the book with Knoxville businessman and friend, Thad Cox, who shares his experiences growing up as a stutterer who also endured bullying.
“About one percent of the population stutters,” Hedinger said. “However, many kids who stutter will never meet someone else who stutters, so they often feel alone in their struggles with speech. We wrote the book to remind young people that that there are plenty of people out there who have experienced the same challenges with stuttering and have gone on to lead successful lives.”
Hedinger met Cox six years ago in a National Stuttering Association support group. “He felt he was in a good place with his speech and wanted to know how he could help others,” she said. “Since then, he has supported our program and served as a guest speaker in many of our speech pathology graduate classes.”
“On a scale from one to 10, with 10 being the most serious, I was a nine in elementary school when it came to stuttering, an eight in high school, and a seven in college,” Cox said. “Now at age 83, I’m a 1 ½. It’s been a long ride.”
Hedinger recalled a specific bullying story that Cox shared with her. ” Thad told me that he was picked on in school so much that he hid in the bathroom stalls to eat his lunch,” she said. “One day, he decided to take the initiative and challenge his bully to a boxing match. He had some experience and a little more control over the outcome when he was in the boxing ring (compared to neighborhood streets or unsupervised school areas). This was the first of many times that Thad had taken action that left him feeling empowered.”
The book offers tips on how to respond to bullying. “Bullying is one of the struggles that many of today’s youth must navigate,” Hedinger said. “It’s not a simple matter to solve and can adversely impact all those involved, whether they are the bully, the victim, or a bystander.”
Overall, Hedinger and Cox want readers take away a message of hope. “Challenges you experience as a child can lead to strength and resilience as an adult,” Hedinger said. “Some of the most successful contributors to society are those who experienced substantial struggle as a kid. Thad’s experience with bullying was harsh and relentless at times and left him fearful and depressed. However, the actions he took throughout the story empowered him, even as an 11-year-old, and eventually contributed to his high levels of achievement as an adult.”
“BullyBlossom” is available for purchase on Amazon.