Everyone in your community can help raise bullying prevention awareness with the right resources.
The National Center for Educational Statistics reports that roughly one in four students reports being bullied. Children with disabilities are two to three times more likely to experience bullying, and the consequences can last well into adulthood. October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, making it the perfect time to start initiatives that prevent future bullying of children with disabilities. By raising awareness, family members, teachers, and community leaders can help stop bullying before it starts, resolve bullying already in progress, and make children with disabilities feel safe and respected.
Bullying Children with Disabilities: The Facts
While the effects of bullying vary from child to child, they must not be ignored. Children—especially those with a physical, intellectual, or developmental disability—can develop depression, anxiety, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) depending on the nature and severity of the bullying. They may feel sad and lonely, lose interest in their hobbies, and develop negative coping mechanisms than can affect their growth in therapy programs. While in school, their academic performance may fall, and they may choose to skip class or drop out to avoid interacting with their bullies. Even with the limited research on this topic, the statistics are staggering:
- Children with epilepsy, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and related conditions are more likely to be bullied by peers, often through name-calling.
- Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may be more than three times as likely to be bullied and isolated by peers.
- Some studies show that children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or a learning disorder are more likely not only to be the victim of bullying, but also carry out bullying.
- When reporting bullying, students in special education are advised against “tattling” twice as often as students not in special education classes.
How Can We Stop Kids from Bullying Children with Disabilities?
It takes parents, teachers, students, and the community as a whole to make a difference. Adults must approach the situation without judging, blaming, or imposing their beliefs on the child. Communication and patience are key. Many victims of bullying are hesitant to talk about the situation out of fear or shame. Parents should watch for subtle signs of bullying such as sudden changes in attitude or behavior.
If you suspect your child is being bullied, help your child understand that they have the right to be safe and respected. Talk to teachers and school staff about the issue and work together to create a plan of action. If bullying persists, you can request an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting. These meetings make sure that schools provide a safe and productive learning environment for students with disabilities and give parents an opportunity to voice their concerns and influence school policies. For additional assistance, seek advice from an organization that specializes in your child’s specific disability.
Peers play a front line role in the fight against bullying. Peer intervention stops more than 50% of bullying situations, so it is important to get your child involved in bullying prevention awareness. Students are influenced more by the actions of their peers than by adult advice. If your child who has told you they witness bullying, encourage them to stand up and become an example for others.
Stomp Out Bullying Today
Integrity Inc. helps children with disabilities in Arkansas learn strategies to become more independent and manage their social interactions. Our programs cover behavior management, communication, decision-making, personal health management, and more. Contact Integrity, Inc. to learn more about our programs at 501-406-0442. You can also get involved by starting your own STOMP Out Bullying campaign in your community.