Jeremy Laurance: Hodgson won’t care, but this could severely affect children

 

So was the Sun being affectionate? Or hostile? David Yelland, former editor of Britain’s biggest selling tabloid was in no doubt.

“So little compassion for Roy Hodgson today, bullying language, pointlessly cruel, pointlessly hurtful,” he tweeted.

Experts echoed his opinion, warning that while the effect on Hodgson would be limited, the impact on young people with speech impediments could be severe.

Norbert Lieckfeldt, chief executive of the British Stammering Association said 4.5 million people in the UK had a speech impediment ranging from rhotacism - the medical term for a person who cannot pronounce their rs - to aphasia - the inability to speak that can follow a stroke.

“It is stupid and it makes me very angry. Hodgson is 63, hugely successful, speaks five languages and all they want to focus on is that he speaks differently.”

“I am sure he won’t care - he is secure in himself. But what about the 13 year old playing football on Hackney Marshes who speaks funny? The message is that its acceptable to mock him.”

“A speech impediment is the one disability that is still mocked. If Hodgson had had a stroke and his pronounciation was difficult to understand the Sun wouldn’t have mocked him. So why now?

“If it is done affectionately it is OK. But the Sun was doing it because they were rooting for Harry Redknapp. ”

Surveys show 60 per cent children with speech impediments are bullied and are more likely to have social phobia, mental health problems and depression.

Kamini Gadhok, chief executive at the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists said: “Nobody wants to knock a sense of humour but people who struggle to speak will be disappointed that a paper like The Sun, which campaigns for good causes, has chosen to focus on how someone speaks rather than their qualities as a leader in taking the England team forward.”

 

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